DOJ sues two anti-abortion organizations, seven members over FACE Act violations

Federal prosecutors on Monday filed a lawsuit against two anti-abortion groups and seven of their members for violating the FACE Act. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Federal prosecutors on Monday filed a lawsuit against two anti-abortion groups and seven of their members for violating the FACE Act. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 21 (UPI) -- The Justice Department is suing two Christian anti-abortion organizations and seven of its members on allegations of blocking access to two northeast Ohio reproductive health clinics in June 2021.

Citizens for a Pro Life Society and Red Rose Rescue are accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, and federal prosecutors are seeking compensatory damages, monetary penalties and injunctive relief.


"Obstructing people from accessing reproductive healthcare and physically obstructing providers from offering it are unlawful," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in a statement Monday.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants prevented two Ohio reproductive healthcare facilities from providing their patients with reproductive healthcare services because of the defendants.

The two-count complaint filed Monday in the Northern District of Ohio accuses the defendants of planning and participating in two coordinated Red Rose Rescue events targeting Ohio reproductive healthcare facilities -- one on June 4, 2021, and the other the next day.


Federal prosecutors said the June 4 incident targeted the Northeast Ohio Women's Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

The document states defendants Laura Gies and Clara McDonald gained access to the facility's waiting room via a back door at about 11:26 a.m. and lied that they were seeking reproductive healthcare.

Minuets later, defendants Christopher Moscinski and Audrey Whipple entered the facility's front entrance and the four of them began handing out roses to patients in the waiting room whom they instructed to not have abortions, the document states.

When the defendants refused to leave, staff escorted the patients into a secured area of the facility, prosecutors said, adding that McDonald then "forcefully grabbed a patient's body and told her not to go through with the abortion."

The defendants continued to refuse to leave even after Cuyahoga Falls police arrived on the scene, with Gies proclaiming to the staff that "your paychecks are from blood money of the children you're ripping to sheds," according to federal prosecutors.

"Please stop killing babies," Gies said, the complaint states. "Please stop dismembering children!"

Outside the facility was defendant Monica Miller, who said in an interview posted to Facebook that their tactic was to "stall as long as possible," as in her experience no abortions are performed as long as they remain on the premises.


They were arrested and physically removed from the facility by police at about noon, the complaint states, adding that Gies, McDonald, Moscinski and Whipple were convicted of trespassing on the premises in August of 2021.

On June 5, 2021, Miller, Lauren Handy and Jay Smith are accused of entering the Planned Parenthood facility and forcing its closure for the day.

According to the document, Handy and Miller entered the facility's private fenced-in parking lot shortly before 9 a.m. and approached patients waiting in their cars, then followed some as they exited their vehicles, trying to force roses and anti-abortion brochures into their hands.

At around the same time, Smith entered the facility's full waiting room and handed out brochures to the patients, the complaint said.

"When a patient asked Smith to leave the facility, Smith used physical force against the patient by pushing him with his shoulder," the complaint said.

According to federal prosecutors, staff was able to move patients to a secured area of the facility and get Smith to exit into the parking lot.

When police arrived, Smith allegedly told officers that he entered the facility "because they're killing babies in there."

After the officers instructed the defendants to leave, Handy knelt in front of the facility's door while Miller approached patients in their cars. Miller then used her body to prevent a patient from exiting their vehicle, and Handy "sprawled her body out on the ground in front of BHSC's entrance and refused to move."


Then an unnamed RRR member in a mask entered the parking lot, followed by a second unnamed RRR member.

A supervisor then asked the facility's management to close the facility for the day as there was only three officers on duty, including two who had arrested Handy and Miller and were transporting them to jail.

The closure affected 24 patients, nine who had scheduled surgeries and 15 with consultation appointments, the document said.

According to court records, several of the defendants have been arrested before for violating the FACE Act, including Handy, who was sentenced May 14 to 57 months in prison and three years' supervised release for being involved in a blockade of a Washington, D.C., reproductive healthcare clinic.

"Individuals have the right to access facilities in Ohio to make decisions about their own bodies, health and futures, in consultation with health care providers, free from force, threats of force, intimidation or physical obstruction," U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio said.

"We encourage anyone with information about potential FACE Act violations to contact our office."

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