Wheelchair-bound NJ woman, 74, among group federally charged following DC abortion protest

A 74-year-old North Jersey woman in a wheelchair was part of a group of anti-abortion activists charged with federal civil rights violations for blocking access to a reproductive health clinic in Washington, D.C.

The arrest of Montague’s Joan Andrews-Bell and eight other protesters was originally livestreamed on Facebook during an October 2020 protest they dubbed “The Pink Rose Rescue” and feds called a “invasion”.

On Wednesday, March 30, Justice Department officials announced the return of an indictment charging the defendants with criminal conspiracy to “harm, oppress, threaten and intimidate patients and employees in violation of their federal rights of seeking and providing reproductive health services”.

They are also accused of violating the US Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for using force to interfere with clinic services.

Protesters converged on Washington from various states in the Northeast and Midwest in an effort to intimidate patients and staff by blockading the building, according to the indictment.

One of the protesters posed as a patient and made an appointment at 9 a.m., the indictment says. When the clinic finally opened, the group forced their way in, injuring a nurse, he said.

Once inside, they began blocking the doors, federal authorities said. Five protesters chained themselves to chairs to block the processing area, according to the indictment. Others blocked the entrance of employees to stop patients. Another prevented anyone from entering the waiting room.

“(The) rescuers are doing their job. They don’t allow women into the abortion clinic,” Jonathan Darnel, who was broadcasting the event live, told Facebook followers. “As long as they are in there, no woman can come in to kill her children.

“We have people physically intervening with their bodies to stop women from entering the clinic to murder their children,” Darnel said.

The stream shows police removing protesters. Bell, who was in a wheelchair, was gently pushed by an officer towards a waiting police car (watch the video above).

The non-profit association DC Area Anti-Abortion Advocategroup, who presented the stream, hailed the “indomitable” Andrews-Bell.

The Sussex County resident “places herself between the babies and those who have wished to murder them for decades, and suffers the consequences,” the group said. “She will be vindicated one day.”

Named in the federal indictment along with Bell and Darnel were:

  • John Hinshaw, 67, of Levittown, Long Island;
  • Jay Smith, 32, of Freeport, Long Island;
  • William Goodman, 52, of the Bronx;
  • Paulette Harlow, 73, and Jean Marshall, 72, both of Kingston, Mass.;
  • Lauren Handy, 28, of Alexandria, Virginia;
  • Heather Idoni, 61, of Linden, Michigan.

The FBI’s field office in Washington, DC is investigating the incident with assistance from the bureau’s field offices in Newark, New York, Boston and Detroit, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

US Attorneys from the New Jersey, Eastern (Brooklyn) and Southern (Manhattan) Districts of New York, Massachusetts and Michigan also attend.

The case is being prosecuted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

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