Grand jury indicts 2 more abortion activists for defacing pro-life clinics in Florida
Two more pro-abortion activists have been arrested for allegedly vandalizing pro-life pregnancy centers in Florida as the number of arrests made in connection with such crimes continues to increase.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in a statement Wednesday that a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida indicted Gabriella Oropesa and Annarella Rivera for engaging in a "conspiracy to prevent employees of reproductive health services facilities from providing those services."
Oropesa and Rivera are the second set of defendants charged with defacing at least one pro-life organization in Florida following the May 2 publication of a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision indicating that justices were prepared to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Caleb Freestone and Amber Smith-Stewart were previously charged in connection with the acts of vandalism in January.
As outlined in the indictment, Rivera, Freestone and Smith-Stewart face additional charges for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act by "using threats of force to intimidate and interfere with the employees of a reproductive health services facility" because "those employees were providing or seeking to provide reproductive health services" as well as "intentionally damaging and destroying the facility's property because the facility provides reproductive health services."
The defendants' arrests come as part of an investigation conducted by the FBI Tampa Field Office in conjunction with the FBI Miami Field Office, the Miami Police Department, the Hialeah Police Department and the Hollywood Police Department.
The indictment implicates the quartet of defendants in the May 28 defacement of a Hollywood, Florida-based pro-life pregnancy center identified as "Facility A" and an "affiliate of the Archdiocese of Miami Ministry."
A picture shared on social media by Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, an EWTN radio host and member of the Florida State Board of Education, reveals graffiti spray-painted on the side of the South Broward Pregnancy Help Center in Hollywood reading "If abortions aren't safe then [neither] are you." The indictment charges the defendants with spray-painting that phrase on the facility in question.
Additionally, the indictment lists Freestone, Smith-Stewart and Rivera as the parties responsible for the June 26 vandalism of a Winter Haven, Florida-based pro-life pregnancy center with graffiti proclaiming, "YOUR TIME IS UP!!" "WE'RE COMING FOR U" and "We are everywhere."
The indictment did not name the Winter Haven-based pro-life facility targeted by the vandals. However, the LifeChoice Pregnancy Center in Winter Haven shared a statement on its social media account on June 26 containing pictures of graffiti that included the phrases highlighted in the indictment.
According to the indictment, Freestone and Oropesa were also the perpetrators behind the defacement of a Hialeah, Florida-based pro-life organization a week later. The description of the July 3 vandalism of the facility matches a social media post from the Heartbeat of Miami Pregnancy Help Medical Clinics. The organization shared pictures of vandalism of the building, which included a message written in graffiti declaring that "If abortions aren't safe [then] neither are you."
If convicted, Rivera, Freestone and Smith-Stewart face up to 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000. Oropesa could spend 10 years behind bars and be subject to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The three pro-life pregnancy centers in Florida constitute a small sample of the pro-life organizations and churches targeted by pro-abortion activists following the leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, concluding that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. The varying degrees of vandalism continued after the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision on June 24.
In addition to the arrests in Florida dating back to January, local law enforcement officials have captured a suspect in the March 16 defacement of CompassCare's pro-life pregnancy center in Amherst, New York. A partnership of local and federal law enforcement agencies arrested a suspect in the firebombing of a Wisconsin pro-life organization last year as he sought to depart the country earlier this week.
The person behind last spring's firebombing of CompassCare, which caused extensive fire damage, remains at large nearly a year later. The FBI has offered a $25,000 reward for anyone with information that could lead to the conviction of the person responsible.
CompassCare CEO Rev. Jim Harden has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the federal government's response to the wave of attacks targeting pro-life pregnancy centers and churches in the past year.
In a statement responding to the arrest of a suspect in connection with the firebombing of Wisconsin Family Action, Harden expressed concerns about the DOJ's statement announcing the matter that could also apply to the agency's announcement about the arrest of additional pro-abortion activists in Florida.
"What they left out of the press releases speaks volumes," he said, adding that the agency failed to identify the fact that the organization targeted was pro-life and that it was "one of over 300 similar attacks nationwide."
Harden lamented that the suspect was "not being charged with committing an act of domestic terror." He suggested that the DOJ was "playing politics" by declining to highlight the role the intense national debate on abortion played in the attack, as the Biden administration has opposed the Dobbs decision.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com