Pro-life activist and entrepreneur David Benham was arrested Saturday outside of an abortion clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, for allegedly ignoring coronavirus-related regulations.
However, Benham and pro-life lawmakers, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, argue the arrest is a disturbing display of how liberal politicians are taking advantage of a global pandemic to push their agendas and restrict Americans’ freedoms.
Counselors with the group wait on sidewalks outside of abortion clinics every day they are open to offer their services to these mothers.
Just like many other organizations across the globe, Cities4Life took extra precautions as the threat of coronavirus became more clear; counselors made sure to abide by social-distancing guidelines set in place by local authorities.
Benham, who serves as chairman of the board for the group, visited the Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte last week, where five other counselors and sonogram technicians from the charity were already stationed on the sidewalk.
Not long after he arrived, however, police officers approached the group and said they were violating stay-at-home orders.
“They said, ‘I’m sorry if you don’t leave, we’ll place you under arrest,'” Benham told The Western Journal.
“And I knew at that point that was kind of the line in the sand.”
Even though Benham remained respectful, he continued to stand firm in his and his colleagues’ rights to be there.
Benham said in that moment, he was navigating the tension between loving the men and women in uniform in front of him and disagreeing with the politics behind their actions.
“I really do love our men and women in blue,” he said. “I mean, thank God for their service to our cities and our local communities, and I love our country and I love my city and I love the leaders of my city, I love the governor, but I don’t agree with the leaders of my city and I do not agree with the governor politically at all.”
Benham, who said he has personally been abiding by coronavirus regulations and enforcing those standards in his businesses, asserted that the Cities4Life volunteers were well within their rights on Saturday.
Cities4Life not only provides alternative, life-giving counseling to mothers considering abortions, but also offers post-abortion services.
“Abortion facilities don’t have that,” he told The Western Journal. “Planned Parenthood doesn’t have follow-up protocols and housing assistance ministries and financial support and medical support and all these other things. They don’t have that for the people that get abortions, but we do.”
“If abortion facilities are going to be ‘essential’ then our pro-life organization is going to be there to help those mothers.”
Outside of that justification, however, Benham said the group’s status as an organization that provides “social services” means it is clearly defined as an “essential business,” according to both North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order and the stay-at-home order for Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located.
Regardless, officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department arrested him and seven other Christians, according to the charity’s website.
“My heart broke,” Benham said, adding that his voice broke while he was being arrested. “I almost started crying, but I pulled it back. I was really in shock.
“I could not believe that my country has gotten to this point where radical left leaders will utilize a global pandemic and emergency situation with restrictions in place and use that to grab First Amendment constitutional rights from law-abiding citizens, from peaceful law-abiding citizens.”
Benham was released from jail later that day, but now he’s speaking out about what he says is an injustice that has been veiled behind public health guidelines.
While it’s not clear who reported the sidewalk counselors for allegedly breaking the stay-at-home rules, Charlotte’s mayor pro tem, Democrat Julie Eiselt, publicly called for their arrest on Twitter only a few days before.
Tagging the police department in her post, she wrote: “@CMPD please shut this activity down. Congregating/leaning into people’s car windows is dangerous and is a clear violation of stay-at-home regulations.”
— Julie J Eiselt (@JulieEiselt) March 28, 2020
Since the arrests, however, pro-life lawmakers like Cruz have rallied behind Benham and echoed their disappointment in actions by the government that they believe violate First Amendment rights.
“This is an unconstitutional arrest,” Cruz tweeted Saturday. “@BenhamBrothers exercising core First Amendment rights. PEACEFULLY. In a way fully consistent w/ public safety.
“Because elected Dems are pro-abortion, they are abusing their power — in a one-sided way — to silence pregnancy counselors.”
2/x This is an unconstitutional arrest. @BenhamBrothers exercising core First Amendment rights. PEACEFULLY. In a way fully consistent w/ public safety. Because elected Dems are pro-abortion, they are abusing their power—in a one-sided way—to silence pregnancy counselors.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 4, 2020
In another Twitter thread, Cruz criticized a local news outlet for its coverage of Benham’s arrest.
“They say it’s just neutral ‘public health’ concerns that allow Dems to arrest @BenhamBrothers for peacefully speaking for life. The newspaper says that’s ‘not essential,'” he wrote.
“BUT they ignore that NC Dem Gov has wrongly deemed elective abortion ‘essential,’ allowing abortion drs & staff to gather in larger groups. IF providing abortions is essential, then peacefully giving pregnant women counseling on alternatives to abortion is ALSO ‘essential.'”
2/x BUT they ignore that NC Dem Gov has wrongly deemed elective abortion “essential,” allowing abortion drs & staff to gather in larger groups. IF providing abortions is essential, then peacefully giving pregnant women counseling on alternatives to abortion is ALSO “essential.”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 7, 2020
Cruz has even started a petition urging Cooper to recognize that “if abortion is ‘essential’ then pregnancy services are essential, too.”
Benham said that despite the arrests, Cities4Life has not stopped providing counseling services, and will continue to fight for the unborn.
“Christ calls us as Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves, born and pre-born. And as Americans we are drastically changing our behavior to protect ourselves, but as Christians we also need to drastically change our behavior to help the unborn,” he said.
“Now, we’re in the middle of the COVID laws, we’re going to come out of this and we’re going to have a great opportunity to really be a voice for the voiceless.”
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