Late last month, I was in Nassau County District Court watching two of my friends — one of whom had already been sentenced in federal court just a few days earlier — receive sentences for so-called misconduct. Their official crime was trespassing, and they were ultimately judged guilty by the laws of man and sentenced to jail time. As part of a mission called “Red Rose Rescue,” they had entered “All Women’s Care,” an abortion facility in Manhasset, to hand roses to women imploring them to choose life.
One of the convicted, Laura Gies, handed her wedding rings to her husband before being escorted to jail for a 60-day sentence, while the other, Father Fidelis, was gently led to his cell. “We love you, Father! You’re a hero!” the crowd shouted while they led him out of the courtroom in chains.
That fateful day, I lost two friends to a corrupt court system that refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn. Shortly after that, I was assaulted in front of multiple cops at a Planned Parenthood as I tried to peacefully hand out pro-life literature to women in crisis pregnancies. And as of last month, our group, Red Rose Rescue, is being sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has called us “terrorists” for trying to protect the unborn — defamation we are fighting with a countersuit.
How did we get here? This is the tale of those of us who try to rescue the unborn through Red Rose Rescue or who simply pray outside abortion facilities through the monthly “Witness for Life” gathering. This is New York in the post-Roe landscape, and we are Gotham’s persecuted pro-lifers.
Gotham’s Radical Pro-Abortion Activists
During a July 2021 Mass, just a few days after the Dobbs decision was released, pro-abortion activists from New York City for Abortion Rights (NYCFAR) were screaming and banging drums like they do every month. The members’ shouts of “Thank God for abortion” could be heard from within the church where we had peacefully gathered to pray.
Despite being the largest gathering to date (there were roughly 200 pro-life “witnesses,” 300 pro-abortion activists, and a massive presence from local police and the Strategic Response Group), that day is a bit of a blur.
As we walked back to our church after completing our rosaries, the pro-abortion activists screamed, “Shame on you,” and lobbed threats toward us. It was our most photographed witness and left an impression on everyone at the prayer vigil. Next month would start a litany of witnesses, culminating in the arrest of seven militant pro-abortion activists.
NYCFAR is a familiar presence in Gotham, having a considerable membership. Members are leftist but vary in ideology, with some being vaguely “progressive” while others have been arrested for eco-terrorism. They greet each as “comrades” and are often well-versed in the works of Marx, Gramsci, Lenin, and other Marxist intellectuals. Like all their idols, they are not bothered by violence. Violence is the means to their end — as Trotsky famously said, “Under all conditions, well-organized violence seems to him the shortest distance between two points.”
In that spirit, my friends have been shoved into walls, cussed out, and egged all in front of police officers. Earlier this month, one demonstrator shined a laser pointer in my eye, causing temporary damage and leaving me $200 poorer because of medical expenses.
The attorney general of New York has done nothing.
Actually, that is not exactly true: Letitia James has decided that the real threat to freedom is pro-lifers and has launched a lawsuit against several of my friends. She has accused them of being domestic terrorists and is on a legal path to enshrine a 30-feet buffer zone between those listed in the lawsuit and any wrongly named “reproductive health” center.
I have always known that being pro-life in New York makes me a second-class citizen. My beliefs about the unborn are not respected. If I am injured for pro-life work, it will not be investigated. And virtually no legislature will help the pro-life cause. However, at least before 2019, there was a belief in New York that the legislature would at least attempt to protect free speech and differences of opinion. After the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, something changed.
The nervous energy of New York’s pro-abortion movement came to one of many boiling points in June of 2021, a month after the Texas heartbeat bill was signed into law and a month before the infamous July witness. Our church’s monthly Brooklyn Witness for Life was attacked by radical pro-abortion extremists. They yelled, cussed, and hit a priest in the face with their signs, breaking his glasses.
We had dealt with this group before and thought it was a one-off attack, but their hostility only increased. They vowed to picket us every month to try to stop us from holding Mass and peacefully praying outside the Brooklyn Planned Parenthood. The saga ended in August 2021 when two of their members were arrested. Nevertheless, the church hosting the Mass was frightened by the violence and threats directed toward them and decided not to host our witness going forward for fear of physical harm to the church and broader parish community.
On Dec. 3, 2021, I was outside the Supreme Court building in D.C. at the Dobbs rally for opening arguments. I was there with hundreds of pro-lifers, praying and praising God, imploring him to end legalized abortion, and hoping that after 50 years, Roe would finally be overturned. Next to us was a smaller but more sinister group of pro-abortion activists, brazenly taking what they claimed were abortion pills on camera. They knew they were losing, so they doubled down on their performative antics.
Jesus said to His disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18). Over the months in 2021, I saw the pro-aborts fall like lightning from their pinnacle of legalized abortion on demand. It was in May, right after the Dobbs decision was leaked, when their descent started. They surrounded our parish, screaming and yelling. A woman dressed in a Trump mask and a diaper tried to break into our church.
It was disturbing but small potatoes compared to what came next. As more states adopt pro-life measures, the radical pro-abortion fall becomes even more violent, but they know that physical intimidation alone will not work.
Now they are trying to legally persecute us and are mobilizing the power of the state and federal government to achieve their goals.
Pro-Life Resistance in America’s Abortion Capital
New York state is arguably the nation’s abortion capital. Our governor has stockpiled 150,000 abortion pills and is quick to sign any pro-abortion legislation that Planned Parenthood brings to her desk. However, when it comes to reducing crime or slightly reforming zoning to make more affordable housing, she is inept. Gov. Kathy Hochul and her administration are ruthless in their efforts to try to squash our small voice of prayerful witness to the dignity of human life.
In White Plains in August 2022, a judge sentenced three friends of mine, Father Fidelis, Mathew Connolly, and William Goodman, to a maximum of three months in jail for pro-life activities offending leftist sensibilities.
But it’s not just the state. After the Dobbs decision, the federal government thought we were not suffering as much as we could be and decided to come after us as well. They arrested Father Fidelis and tried him for an outdated and unconstitutional FACE Act violation. His crime was putting a lock on a gate and talking to vulnerable women, offering them assistance and help with any unplanned pregnancy. In any normal context, the worst punishment he would receive would be a fine, but under Merrick Garland’s DOJ, he was given the maximum sentence of six months in federal prison for trying to help vulnerable women in need.
However, we are fighting back. Our countersuit against James for defamation and civil rights violations is an important step. We have also issued appeals for all unjust sentencings that Red Rose Rescuers face. After more than a year, we finally obtained a police blockade to walk down the street to pray.
Letitia James, New York state, and the federal government have made it clear that they do not care about the lives of the unborn. They have made it even clearer that they do not care about the lives and physical safety of pro-lifers who dare to challenge the culture of death. Like Satan trying to tempt and lead all followers of Christ to sin, the state is persecuting us, hoping we will falter in our pro-life beliefs or stop doing pro-life work. I certainly won’t, and neither will my friends.
The persecution is here and will only get more intense, but we will continue to stand for life.