Catholic priest convicted of blocking Planned Parenthood entrance, could face prison time

A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois.
A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

A Catholic priest was found guilty in federal court of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for placing locks on the entrance to a Long Island Planned Parenthood abortion facility in July 2022. 

Father Fidelis Moscinski faces the possibility of six months in federal prison after being convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Monday.

The FACE Act prohibits "violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services." 

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A Thursday press release from the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm representing Moscinski, highlighted arguments from the firm's Special Counsel Christopher Ferrara, who claimed there is no "jurisdictional basis" for the application of the FACE Act. 

"Planned Parenthood's own witness admitted that no appointments were cancelled that day, and there was no significant effect on its business," Ferrara noted. 

"Father Moscinski's purely local, non-violent conduct at most constituted disorderly conduct under the New York Penal Law and had no impact on interstate commerce, which is the supposed basis for Congress' authority to enact the FACE Act."

The priest is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24, 2023. The Thomas More Society intends to file an appeal on Moscinski's behalf.

After the local fire department removed the locks Moscinski had placed on the facility's entrance gate in July, the Catholic priest laid in the driveway before local police arrested him for obstructing traffic. 

In September 2022, the Department of Justice charged Moscinski with violating the FACE Act.

Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, alleged that the pro-life advocate "attempted to prevent women from accessing their legal right to vital reproductive and pregnancy services."

The Thomas More Society, in addition to other pro-life groups, feel that the DOJ's enforcement of the law is unfair, raising concerns about what they think is an inadequate response to the wave of violence against pro-life organizations and churches. 

"At Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action, we are very concerned about a weaponized Department of Justice using the law against pro-life Americans as well as ignoring crimes against them," Kristi Hamrick, vice president of media and policy for Students for Life Action, told The Christian Post in a Friday statement.

Hamrick, who also serves as the chief media and policy strategist for Students for Life of America, highlighted an incident in December where the abortion activist collective Jane's Revenge allegedly left a note on a Nebraska-based Catholic ministry center threatening to carry out a mass shooting if the state passed an abortion ban. 

Jane's Revenge claimed responsibility for various attacks against pro-life pregnancy centers and churches following the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization last May. The ruling, which came in June, overturned the 1973 decision that made abortion a national right. 

Hamrick questioned the authorities' apparent lack of concern over the threatening message and other cases of vandalism and threats of violence against pro-life Americans. 

The note was placed on the door of the St. John Paul II Newman Center, where Students for Life members planned to meet and discuss strategies for closing a late-term abortion facility in Bellevue, Nebraska, via the organization's Campaign for Abortion Free Cities. 

"If our right to abortion in Bellevue is taken away due to the attempt to pass an abortion ban and it gets passed we will shoot up your Newman center with our new AR74 rifles," the message read.

Before the incident, eight cities in Nebraska had declared themselves "sanctuary cities for the unborn," ordinances prohibiting abortions from taking place within city limits. Students for Life of America is pushing for the ordinance to be enacted in Bellevue. 

The Students for Life leader also criticized the DOJ permitting the U.S. Postal Service to mail abortion drugs, which Hamrick said is "an extraordinary dereliction of duty." 

Hamrick believes Moscinski's case "adds to the impression that the DOJ has thrown out the law in exchange for abortion activism.

"We support Congressional investigations into DOJ activity," she said. 

As The Christian Post reported, the DOJ announced Monday that two individuals had been indicted in connection with the vandalism of three pregnancy resource centers in Florida. 

The grand jury for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida indicted Caleb Freestone, 27, and Amber Smith-Stewart, 23, for engaging "in a conspiracy to prevent employees of reproductive health services facilities from providing those services."

If convicted, the individuals face up to 12 years in prison and fines of up to $350,000.

However, no arrests have been made related to the firebombing of a pro-life pregnancy center near Buffalo, New York, last year. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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