COLUMBIA — A mid-Missouri anti-abortion advocate has been found not guilty of trespassing at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.
Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler ruled Thursday that Kathy Forck did not trespass while participating in daily prayer vigils at the clinic. Forck, of New Bloomfield, and her husband, Mike, are campaign directors for the Columbia-based chapter of anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life.
She was cited for trespassing on July 24, 2012 and convicted in Columbia Municipal Court but appealed to the circuit court, The Jefferson City News-Tribune reported.
"I'm just thrilled," Forck said Thursday. "I am just very happy that I was vindicated."
She was represented by Daniel Baker of Sedalia, a special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm.
The firm said Planned Parenthood had Forck arrested for violating Columbia city trespassing laws for stepping onto its property to offer a truck driver leaving the clinic a glass of water on a hot day.
"I did not trespass," Forck said. "I observed the rules up there — and I'm only there to offer help to the women."
She said 40 Days for Life plans to continue to pray at the clinic until it closes because of Planned Parenthood's connection with abortion services, even though the Columbia clinic no longer offers abortions.
Ron Ellifrits, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which operates the Columbia clinic, said in a statement the organization "is disappointed in (the) decision to acquit Kathy Forck of trespassing charges related to protests outside our Columbia Health Center. We will continue our efforts to ensure that our patients have the right to access our services without the constant harassment of Forck and her group."