Charges dropped against ‘Red Rose Rescue’ priest who counsels women against abortion

abortion protest Father Fidelis Moscinski (far left, in gray robe), a well-known pro-life activist and priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) is seen during a tense standoff between pro-life and pro-abortion demonstrators in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022. | Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

A New Jersey prosecutor has dropped charges against Father Fidelis Moscinski, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, and three other pro-life advocates for trespassing at a Planned Parenthood center, according to the law firm defending the group.

The group was arrested on Dec. 22, 2018, while participating in the pro-life ministry Red Rose Rescue at the abortion facility in Trenton.

Moscinski is at the same time facing federal charges under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act — a 1994 law that prohibits the blocking of access to abortion clinics ​​— for an attempt to halt operations and save lives at a New York abortion clinic in July.

Moscinski has served jail time for his Red Rose Rescue efforts before. Typically, a rescue involves a pro-life advocate entering the waiting room of an abortion facility to offer a red rose along with pro-life literature. 

The Thomas More Society, a religious freedom law firm, represented Moscinski and the three other pro-life advocates, Will Goodman, Patrice Woodward, and Matthew Connolly, in Trenton Municipal Court.

Christopher Ferrara, the group’s lawyer, argued in the case that the women in the abortion clinic “had never been given information on the grave psychological consequences of abortion,” the law firm said in a Dec. 5 statement.

The law firm said that studies show having an abortion increases the risk of suicide, drug abuse, exacerbation of preexisting mental illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ferrara said in the law firm’s statement that the defense’s argument was “unusual in that it did not focus on defense of life but rather on the lack of informed consent to abortion, for which women have the right to sue for damages in New Jersey.”

The state, being the plaintiff in the case, would have had to disprove Ferrara’s argument “beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to the law firm.

The charges were subsequently dismissed, per the prosecutor’s request, according to the law firm’s press release.

“The dismissal of all charges against these courageous pro-life advocates brings to an end the long saga of this case,” Ferrara said in the law firm’s statement.

“One can only admire the willingness of these four to make an offering of their own bodies, as prisoners, to save the unborn. Repeatedly they have immolated themselves for the sake of innocent life, even at the cost of arrest and imprisonment in the tradition of civil disobedience that brought about the success of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. This time, however, they were spared that penalty.”

Moscinski lauded Ferrara and the Thomas More Society in the statement saying that the two “helped us continue our pro-life witness in the Trenton court.” 

“Before all charges were dismissed, the judge allowed us to assert the defense of necessity at the upcoming trial. Now that will not be necessary,” the priest said.

The “defense of necessity” is a legal term applying to a crime committed during an emergency to prevent a greater harm from happening. 

“Ultimately, the prosecutor asked for our charges of trespass to be dismissed. We are grateful for the remarkably effective representation of Christopher Ferrara and the support of the Thomas More Society. May we see many more such victories for the cause of life!” Moscinski said.

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