Three anti-abortion advocates affiliated with Red Rose Rescue (RRR), a pro-life religious group, were arrested for infiltrating the All Women’s Health and Medical Services abortion clinic on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains on Saturday morning.
Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, President and Chair of WCLA Choice Matters, a pro-choice advocacy organization, said that around 8:30 a.m. a woman posing as a fake patient initially gained entrance to the building and let two men in with her. Another woman also pretending to be a patient was then allowed in and let another man from the group in, Lederer-Plaskett said.
The group went upstairs, but when it became clear that they were not there for any medical reason, the clinic’s administrator called the police.
According to RRR, patient advocates and counselors affiliated with the group were handing out roses with pregnancy aid cards inside the clinic facility while others gathered outside offering information to individuals arriving for their appointments.
The group’s onsite team included 10 women, two Catholic priests, one Franciscan brother and seven laymen, according to RRR’s description of the incident.
“We stayed inside the building to be faithful patient advocates for the moms and their tiny little ones in the womb,” Will Goodman said in a RRR statement posted to Facebook. “In conscience, we could not leave while innocent people were in harm’s way.”
While the White Plains Police Department arrived at the scene roughly 15 to 20 minutes after the anti-abortion group first entered the facility, RRR members were allowed to remain inside the facility for over two hours prior to being escorted out. Three individuals were arrested, although they were later released.
Goodman and Christopher Moscinski, a Franciscan friar, were arrested on suspicion of third-degree criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor, and Matthew Connolly was booked for trespassing, a violation. The three are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 13.
Monica Miller, a spokesperson for RRR, said the three individuals’ engagement with the police prior to being removed from the facility was positive.
“The police frankly were sympathetic to the pro-lifers and Friar [Moscinski] had a significant conversation with them in the waiting room before being arrested,” Miller said.
Goodman believes they were wrongfully charged with trespassing and said they will seek an affirmative legal defense to that effect before appearing in court.
“We strongly believe these were unjust arrests based upon the dire circumstances,” Goodman said over email. “We patiently sought the cooperation and assistance of the local law enforcement to assist us in our efforts as first responders to a real crisis emergency in progress. Sadly, they chose instead to work with those who destroy human life for profit.”
Lederer-Plaskett said the police department’s failure to respond swiftly to the situation once on the scene allowed the pro-life group to remain in the facility far too long, terrorizing patients seeking reproductive care in the process.
“When [an employee] asked them to arrest these people who would not leave the premises and were trespassers, [the police] said for several hours that they were waiting for direction from their superiors,” Lederer-Plaskett said. “Meanwhile, they let these vigilante terrorists go around the waiting area and try to convince patients there not to have abortions, totally invading their privacy and their space in a medical facility.”
Lederer-Plaskett said anti-abortion advocates are empowered by the six anti-choice Supreme Court justices who are currently positioning themselves to gut Roe v. Wade, and Saturday’s incident demonstrated that local law enforcement was ill-equipped to handle the situation.
The White Plains Police Department did not respond to numerous attempts for comment on the nature of Saturday’s incident in time for publication.
When Lederer-Plaskett went to Westchester County District Attorney Mimi E. Rocah’s office on Monday, she said it was the first time the DA had heard of the incident, which the DA’s office confirmed.
“The DA’s office was never notified,” Lederer-Plaskett said. “There was an immediate breakdown of communication between different forms of government. Regardless of what side of any issue you’re on, that’s not a good thing.”
According to RRR’s description of the day, seven individuals arrived at the facility for their appointments during the time of the group’s obstruction. One woman opted to leave the clinic, RRR said, and was in tears while departing.
“Those counseling her were quite certain she decided to not go through with the abortion,” Miller said.
While some patients chose to reschedule, Lederer-Plaskett said many remained. Lederer-Plaskett applauded the staff at All Women’s Health who continued to provide care to patients after RRR members were escorted out.
Currently, Rocah is working with law enforcement partners to determine whether RRR members illegally interfered with patients receiving access to medical care.
“The New York State Clinic Access Act gives patients and staff the right to be free from force, threats of force or physical obstruction when trying to obtain or provide reproductive health care. In addition, criminal trespass or other criminal statutes may apply,” Rocah said in a statement regarding the incident. “Criminal conduct which interferes with the rights of Westchester County residents to freely access healthcare is serious, and will be, if appropriate, prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”
Women’s Health and Medical Services staff declined to comment on the incident.