Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants residents linked to the radical pro-choice group Jane’s Revenge to pay for the damage they allegedly did to a pro-life pregnancy center in Hialeah.
Both Ms. Moody and Heartbeat of Miami, a religious ministry that runs the Pregnancy Help Medical Clinics, filed lawsuits Wednesday against several Florida residents indicted by the Justice Department in last year’s attacks on pro-life facilities.
The complaints filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle Division of Florida (Tampa Division) seek $170,000 in damages and civil penalties from each of the defendants for violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and the state’s anti-racketeering law.
“Antifa and Jane’s Revenge are criminal organizations and must answer for their crimes in Florida,” said Ms. Moody, a Republican. “I am taking action to hold their members accountable for attempting to intimidate and threaten law-abiding citizens in our state.”
Representing Heartbeat of Miami is the First Liberty Institute, a non-profit Christian legal advocacy group.
“Those who target life-affirming reproductive health facilities must face the legal penalties Congress established for their crimes,” First Liberty senior counsel Jeremy Dys said. “No one should suffer violence for simply providing faith-based counseling and baby supplies to women and their babies. Violence is never a lawful response to disagreement.”
Earlier this month, the Justice Department charged Caleb Hunter Freestone and Amber Marie Smith-Stewart for attacks on three Florida pro-life pregnancy centers in violation of the FACE Act. If convicted, they face up to 12 years in prison and $350,000 in fines.
The department filed a superseding indictment Wednesday charging another two Florida residents, Annarella Rivera and Gabriella Victoria Oropresa, with FACE Act violations.
The lawsuits accused Mr. Freestone and Ms. Smith-Stewart of vandalizing the Heartbeat of Miami pro-life pregnancy center and damaging its security camera with a laser in the July 3 attack. Messages spray-painted on the building included: “Jane’s Revenge” and “If abortions aren’t safe [then] neither are you.”
The Heartbeat of Miami lawsuit also accused Mr. Freestone and Ms. Rivera of crashing the organization’s annual gala held Sept. 17 at the Trump National Doral Miami Resort & Hotel.
“They shouted obscenities, disparaged Heartbeat’s staff, volunteers, and supporters, and leafletted the venue with propaganda hoping to dissuade women from using Heartbeat’s services,” said the complaint.
Florida’s lawsuit targets Mr. Freestone and Ms. Smith-Stewart, while Heartbeat of Miami is suing those two plus Ms. Rivera.
The three defendants “are being sued in their capacities as representatives of Jane’s Revenge,” described in the filing as “an unincorporated criminal association … organized into local cells across the country to accomplish the association’s illicit goals.”
Jane’s Revenge demanded in June that pro-life organizations disband or face “increasingly extreme tactics” following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
“While Defendants failed in their goal of coercing Heartbeat to cease its operation, their threats of force succeeded in making its personnel fear for their personal safety and the safety of their families,” said the filing from Heartbeat of Miami. “Defendants’ actions of intimidation and violence forced Heartbeat to provide physical 24-hour security to protect the ability of their employees and patients to access its life-affirming reproductive healthcare facility.”
At least 83 pro-life offices and pregnancy centers have been attacked since the May 1 leak of the draft opinion, according to the CatholicVote tracker. Jane’s Revenge has claimed responsibility for some of the incidents.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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