California Man Arrested For Clinic Attack, Washington Man Sued For FACE Violation

Robin Marty

Clinic violence and harassment has been increasing, and two men are charged this weekend in separate cases.

Clinic threats and violence have been increasingly rapidly in the last few years as anti-choice activists have become more bold in their harassment and outright attacks on reproductive health centers.  But one center in California, a victim of an arson attempt last fall, may be able to rest a little easier now that the alleged perpetrator has been found.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

The FBI has arrested a 37-year-old school bus driver suspected of vandalizing a central California mosque and firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic last year, authorities said.

Donny Eugene Mower, of Madera, was to be arraigned Thursday on two federal arson charges in the Sept. 2 attack on the Madera Planned Parenthood, local and federal officials said.

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The clinic was damaged and had to remain shut for two days after someone threw an explosive device through a window. A sign left outside read, “Murder Our Children? We have a ‘choice’ too. Let’s see if you can burn just as well as your victims,” according to a criminal complaint the FBI filed this week in support of criminal charges.

Mower, who also attacked a mosque and a United Methodist church that was too “friendly” to homosexuals, signed his notes ABN, referring to the American Nationalist Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, in a separate case on the West Coast, an anti-abortion activist in Washington has been charged with FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act violation for breaking into the exam room of a reproductive healthcare clinic and calling the staff “baby-killers” before being removed.

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Writing the court, [Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael] Diaz said [John C.] Kroack became irate and tried to force his way into the clinic exam area. Diaz contended Kroack kicked and slammed himself into the door several times while shouting.

“You baby killers!” Kroack is alleged to have yelled. “You are all going to hell for being murderers.”

Diaz said one nurse was forced to hold the door closed out of fear that Kroack would break it down. Staff at the center rushed to a “safe room” and waited for police to arrive.

Officers arrived to find Kroack still beating on the door, the federal prosecutor continued. On leaving, Kroack allegedly told officer they “need to watch this place.”

A search of Kroack’s car uncovered a machete and several duffel bags containing netting, cord, tools and camouflage clothing, according to the complaint.

Should Kroack be found guilty, he will be permanently barred from the center and could face a $10,000 fine.

News Abortion

Washington Judge: Public Hospitals Must Offer Abortion Care

Nicole Knight Shine

Passed by voter initiative in 1991, the Reproductive Privacy Act says, "The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman's fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion," and that a public hospital may not discriminate against that right.

Public hospitals in Washington state must offer abortion care if they also provide maternity services, a state superior court judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis found that the Skagit Valley Hospital violated the state Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA) by failing to employ staff to perform abortions, and instead referred patients to a Planned Parenthood clinic roughly 29 miles away.

Passed by voter initiative in 1991, the RPA says, “The state shall not deny or interfere with a woman’s fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion,” and that a public hospital may not discriminate against that right. The law does not apply to private medical facilities and individuals.

Skagit Valley Hospital, located in northwest Washington and part of the third-largest public district hospital in the state, is licensed for 137 beds, and offers maternity, emergency, cancer, and cardiac care, among other services. In a lawsuit filed in Skagit County Superior Court last year, Kevan Coffey, a licensed nurse practitioner who lives in Skagit County, charged the public hospital with breaking the law by referring patients who seek abortion care to Planned Parenthood.

In the complaint, Coffey said she was “unable to carry a pregnancy to term without facing severe, life-birth defects,” noting, “I personally want to have all options, including abortion, available to me.”

The hospital, however, contended in court documents that it couldn’t find staff to perform abortions.

The judge didn’t buy it, writing in her decision, “In effect, the Hospital District shrugs its shoulders and informs patients that they will have to find that aspect of their healthcare elsewhere.”

Judge Montoya-Lewis continued, “Compliance with the RPA is not aspirational; it is mandatory.”

Tom Ahearne, an attorney for Skagit Valley Hospital, said the hospital board would be meeting Thursday and has not yet decided whether to appeal, as the Stranger reported.

Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, told Rewire that the hospital’s practice of referring patients to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bellingham, Washington, imposed a hardship on patients. She said that about one-third of those seeking abortion care in the state have to drive through two or more counties.

“Hospitals that accept public funding ought to live by the laws of the state that they’re in,” Charbonneau said in a phone interview Wednesday. “When the people of Washington voted for this, they were serious. You don’t just get to ignore the law.”

Washington state and California are among the few states with a Reproductive Privacy Act to guarantee an individual’s right to end a pregnancy.

In a statement issued after the decision, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which brought the lawsuit on Coffey’s behalf, called the decision “a huge victory.”

“We hope this ruling makes the promise of the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act a reality for all women across Washington state,” Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said.

Coffey said in a statement that she was “pleased that the court has affirmed the right of women to have access to the full range of reproductive health care services.”

Ahearne, who represents the hospital, told the Stranger that hospital leaders “feel stuck between a rock and a hard place,” concerned about breaking the law by requiring doctors to perform abortions.

The hospital had argued that it “cannot affirmatively seek to hire [abortion] providers … nor can it require them to do so.”

But the judge countered that the provision in the RPA that carves out exceptions for those who don’t wish to offer abortion care applies to individuals and private medical facilities, not public hospitals.

News Violence

Washington Man Admits to Sending Death Threats to Fetal-Tissue Processing Company

Nicole Knight Shine

Scott Anthony Orton's online threats against a Planned Parenthood partner company included, "StemExpress your lives don’t matter nearly as much as your deaths do."

A Washington man pleaded guilty to leveling death threats against a fetal tissue firm with ties to Planned Parenthood, the United States Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Scott Anthony Orton, 57, of Puyallup, Washington, faces a sentence of up five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Orton, in nearly 20 online postings last year, made a series of violent statements, including threatening to kill an officer of a California fetal-tissue processing company, StemExpress LLC, which was working with Planned Parenthood.

Orton began his alleged threats in July 2015—two days after the release of one in a string of deceptive and widely discredited recordings by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice front group. CMP’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which included coordination with Republican legislators, alleged that the health-care organization was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.

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A Planned Parenthood official in the CMP video footage references the Placerville-based StemExpress, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) affidavit reviewed by the Sacramento Bee.

StemExpress in August ended its working relationship with Planned Parenthood, citing “the increased questions that have arisen over the past few weeks.” StemExpress procures human tissue and processes cells for research on cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and other conditions.

Orton’s online threats included:

Kill StemExpress employees. I’ll pay you for it.

Stop the death of innocents. Kill the killers.

StemExpress your lives don’t matter nearly as much as your deaths do.

I think I’ll take a little trip to Placerville this weekend. I hear there’s some good hunting down Placerville way …

The FBI investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian A. Fogerty.

“Terrorizing others through threats of violence, whether communicated in person or through media websites, is cruel, dangerous and disruptive, and is also a federal crime,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a statement. “As Mr. Orton now knows, those who seek to terrorize others online will be identified and prosecuted.”

Orton’s sentencing is set for August 2.

CMP’s smear campaign prompted more than a dozen Republican-backed state and congressional investigations. The Republican-led Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives held it latest congressional hearing on Wednesday.

A rash of clinic attacks has followed the release of the CMP footage, with reproductive health providers in 2015 seeing a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder,” according to a recent National Abortion Federation (NAF) report.

NAF reported 94 threats of direct harm targeting providers in 2015, compared to one direct threat in 2014.

The FBI warned that there would be “an uptick in attacks on reproductive health-care facilitiestwo months before suspected gunman Robert Lewis Dear Jr. allegedly killed three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood.