- Four individuals were charged in connection with attacks on pro-life centers this week, which CompassCare Pregnancy Services CEO Rev. Jim Harden said is an “indictment on the FBI” for previously “choosing” not to pursue cases.
- “We’re glad to see the federal government taking the matter of widespread attacks on pregnancy centers and churches seriously,” Thomas More Society Executive Vice President and Head of Litigation Peter Breen told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s taken way too long for the FBI and the federal government to get serious about it.”
- Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and First Liberty Institute also filed a lawsuit this week against the individuals charged with attacking pregnancy centers in Florida.
CompassCare Pregnancy Services CEO Rev. Jim Harden said the four individuals charged this week in connection with attacks on pregnancy clinics are an “indictment on the FBI,” who he believes has been “choosing” not to pursue cases.
Pro-life advocates have been critical of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to prosecute those responsible for a wave of attacks on pregnancy centers following the overturn of Roe v. Wade while simultaneously using the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act to target pro-life activists. This week, however, four individuals were charged in connection with attacks on pro-life centers: two in Florida, one in Wisconsin, and another in New York.
At least 83 pro-life centers and groups have been attacked since the Dobbs decision leak, according to Catholic Vote. The DOJ brought its first charges against two individuals in Florida in January—and brought no more until this week.
In Florida, Gabriella Oropesa and Annarella River were charged under the FACE Act for targeting and vandalizing pregnancy centers in Florida, painting threats like “If abortions aren’t safe than niether [sic] are you,” “YOUR TIME IS UP!!,” “WE’RE COMING for U,” and “We are everywhere,” according to the DOJ’s Wednesday release.
One man in Wisconsin was arrested Tuesday in connection with a May 8, 2022 firebombing of the Wisconsin Family Action office. Earlier in the week, a New York woman was arrested for a March 16, 2023 vandalism at CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Amherst, New York, the same center that was firebombed in June 2022.
“This particular arrest, while I’m happy to see it, represents an indictment on the FBI,” Harden told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We’ve been saying for months and months that they know who’s doing this and they’re choosing not to make arrests.”
After over 300 days, no individual has been identified in connection with the June firebombing that caused over $400,000 in damages. Yet within ten days of CompassCare notifying the FBI of the vandalism, local police made an arrest on “less evidence” than they had for the other attack, according to Harden.
In January, CompassCare, in partnership with the Thomas More Society, launched a private investigation into violence against pro-life pregnancy centers. Harden said the recent arrests are “oddly coincidental” because the private investigators were also looking into both Wisconsin and New York.
Harden believes pressure from the private investigations, along with from House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and the media, prompted the federal government to take action to “bolster” their reputation.
“We’re glad to see the federal government taking the matter of widespread attacks on pregnancy centers and churches seriously,” Thomas More Society Executive Vice President and Head of Litigation Peter Breen told the DCNF. “It’s taken way too long for the FBI and the federal government to get serious about it. We hope that they continue their efforts because there are hundreds of attacks that have occurred.”
While encouraged by the steps taken, Breen said a few questions remain unanswered, such as why some defendants are being charged under the FACE act when others are being charged under a more standard arson crime.
“We don’t have clarity from the federal government why some are being charged in one way and some in another,” he said
Another question also remains unclear: what is the federal government doing to solve the broader problem?
The group known as Jane’s Revenge, which claimed responsibility for some attacks last summer, poses a “significant security threat to every pro-life American,” but the government has not determined what its nature is or how it is operating, Breen said. (RELATED: AG Garland ‘Never’ Saw Training Material Instructing US Marshals Not To Arrest Protestors At SCOTUS Justices’ Homes)
Pressure to bring perpetrators of attacks on pregnancy centers to justice is ramping up from other sources too. On Wednesday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the individuals charged in Florida as representatives of Jane’s Revenge, seeking $170,000 in penalties from each defendant under the FACE Act.
First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys told the DCNF that the lawsuit will both hold accountable those responsible and warn others who may be thinking about similar violence.
“Those who target life-affirming reproductive health facilities must face the legal penalties Congress established for their crimes,” said Dys. “No one should suffer violence for simply providing faith-based counseling and baby supplies to women and their babies.
Dys said he hopes other attorneys general will follow Ashely Moody’s lead in protecting pregnancy centers rather than threatening civil action or issuing consumer advisories against them, such as Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have done.
“Antifa and Jane’s Revenge are criminal organizations and must answer for their crimes in Florida,” Moody said in a statement. “I am taking action to hold their members accountable for attempting to intimidate and threaten law-abiding citizens in our state.”
Wisconsin Family Action, Life Choice Pregnancy Center, and the DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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