DOJ sues pro-life activists for conducting 'Red Rose Rescues' in Ohio

The entrance signage for the United States Department of Justice Building in Washington D.C. The Department of Justice, the U.S. law enforcement and administration of Justice government agency.
The entrance signage for the United States Department of Justice Building in Washington D.C. The Department of Justice, the U.S. law enforcement and administration of Justice government agency. | Getty Images

The United States Department of Justice is suing several pro-life activists and organizations for attempting to block entrances to abortion clinics in Ohio.  

The DOJ announced in a statement Monday that it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio alleging that seven pro-life activists and two pro-life organizations violated federal law by “engaging in physical obstruction at two Ohio reproductive health facilities to prevent the facilities from providing, and patients from receiving" abortions.  

The complaint maintains that the organizations Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and Red Rose Rescue, along with pro-life activists Laura Gies, Lauren Handy, Clara McDonald, Monica Miller, Christopher Moscinski, Jay Smith and Audrey Whipple violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by holding Red Rose Rescues at two Ohio abortion facilities in June 2021. Handy is already serving nearly five years in prison in connection with a separate FACE Act violation in Washington, D.C. 

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The FACE Act subjects anyone who “by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person because that person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services” to federal charges. 

The lawsuit states that during a Red Rose Rescue, “participants (1) enter the facility, (2) occupy space in the facility’s waiting room, (3) pass out red roses to those seeking reproductive health services, (4) protest the provision of reproductive health services, (5) refuse to leave the waiting room voluntarily, and (6) require police officers to physically remove each RRR participant from the facility.” 

The complaint noted that “RRR events are deemed ‘successful’ when they result in a reproductive health services facility closing early or canceling appointments.”

The first Red Rose Rescue that led to the defendants facing federal charges took place at the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center in Cuyahoga Falls on June 4, 2021. Defendants Gies, McDonald, Moscinski and Whipple were arrested on trespassing charges after they “occupied nearly the entirety of the waiting room by laying or kneeling directly on the waiting room floor.” They also handed out roses to patients in the waiting room before the abortion clinic’s staff evacuated them. 

The lawsuit adds further details about the “disruption” in abortions caused by the Red Rose Rescue. Specifically, at least five patients opted not to show up for their scheduled appointments. While some women elected to reschedule their appointments, others canceled due to the police presence at the facility. 

The second Red Rose Rescue mentioned in the lawsuit took place at Bedford Heights Surgery Center in Bedford Heights, Ohio, on June 5, 2021. During this protest, defendant Handy laid in front of the entrance to the abortion clinic while defendant Miller approached patients in their cars and sought to prevent them from entering the facility. Meanwhile, defendant Smith handed out pro-life brochures to patients inside the waiting room. 

While the facility was closed for the rest of the day at the request of local police, the 24 abortion appointments slated to take place were “ultimately rescheduled.” The complaint asks a judge to impose fines on the defendants and seeks injunctive relief ordering them to refrain from violating the FACE Act in the future. 

“Obstructing people from accessing reproductive health care and physically obstructing providers from offering it are unlawful,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “Congress passed the FACE Act 30 years ago this month in response to acts of violence, threats of violence and physical obstruction at reproductive health clinics in our country.”

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing federal law to protect the rights of those who seek and those who provide access to reproductive health services,” Clarke vowed. 

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Rebecca Lutzko added that “federal and state laws protect access to reproductive health care services.”

"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," Lutzko continued. "Our office remains committed to enforcing the FACE Act to protect these important rights of both individuals and providers, whether or not the services provided include abortion care."

Randall Terry, founder of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, elaborated on the implications of the FACE Act on the pro-life movement in a previous interview with The Christian Post. “Between 1987 and 1994, we accumulated over 75,000 arrests around the country for peacefully blockading abortion clinics,” he recalled. 

“We would sit there, 100, 200, 500 people and not let anyone in,” he added. “We closed them for the whole day and saved the babies that were scheduled to die that day.” 

In 1994, Congress passed the FACE Act, which was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. Terry told CP that following the law’s enactment, pro-life activists who engaged in “rescues” found themselves facing “a federal misdemeanor for the first offense and a federal felony for the second offense” instead of “local trespass charges” that came with much lighter penalties. He lamented that “once that law was passed, it effectively broke the back of our movement.”

Terry and other pro-life activists have repeatedly called on Congress to repeal the FACE Act since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision which ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. The Dobbs decision reversed the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

“There’s no basis for FACE anymore,” pro-life activist Terrisa Bukovinac, a close friend of Handy, insisted to CP in an October 2022 interview. “FACE is predicated on the ruling in Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court now says was ‘egregiously wrong’ from the beginning.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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