WASHINGTON, D.C., March 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Eight pro-life activists were arrested this morning in an effort to put political pressure on House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, to pass a 20-week ban that has stalled in the House.
Operation Rescue's Troy Newman, Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, and blogger Jill Stanek, along with five other activists, were arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) at approximately 11:45 a.m. EST in a combination press conference and prayer vigil.
Spokespeople for the police told LifeSiteNews that they arrested eight protesters, who “were charged with violating D.C. Code 22-1307.”
This part of the D.C. code makes it “unlawful for a person, alone or in concert with others…to crowd, obstruct, or incommode…the use of or passage through any public building or public conveyance.” The law also makes it illegal “to continue or resume the crowding, obstructing, or incommoding after being instructed by a law enforcement officer to cease the crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.”
Punishment for this violation can lead to a fine of as much as $500, up to 90 days in prison, or both. The spokesperson was not able to tell LifeSiteNews what would happen to Stanek, Newman, Mahoney, and the others, noting that they were still being processed at approximately 1:00 p.m. EST today.
The activists were protesting what Newman and Mahoney called a “betrayal” by the House GOP over its unwillingness to pass H.R. 36, the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The bill, which was promised passage during the 2015 March for Life, was held up by concerns by several Republicans members who said the rape exception was too narrow.
The exception would have allowed late-term abortions only if the victim reported the rape to police before trying to abort her child.
“What happened on January 21 this year by the Republican leadership … in the House was an absolute betrayal of America's children, and a betrayal of the pro-life movement,” Mahoney told news outlets that attended the informal press conference in the hallway in front of Boehner's personal office in Longworth House Office Building.
According to Mahoney, the pro-life movement “walked hundreds of miles” and “donated millions of dollars to give Speaker Boehner the historic majority he has in the House today. And for all that incredible hard work, we were promised on January 22nd that a vote would be held banning abortions after 20 weeks.”
“On the eve of that vote … that vote was shelved. Hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, and suddenly the ban is pulled. There's no other way to look at that, but betrayal.”
Mahoney said that Republicans would not be able to count on pro-life efforts in 2016 “if we are going to be treated in such a fashion. Stop ignoring the children and the people who helped get you elected. We are four months into the new year, and they don't even have language for this bill.”
Asked by LifeSiteNews why being arrested was a more effective form of protest than praying and protesting without being arrested, Mahoney said they were speaking for the unborn. He told LifeSiteNews that he believes abortion victims would say that “no business should move forward, everything should shut down, until this legislation is passed.”
Newman told LifeSiteNews, “The pro-life movement needs to instill a sense of urgency in the fact that this bill must be passed.”
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“While [Republicans] are in spineless mode, in cowardly mode, children are dying,” he added. He said the activists who risked arrest were intending to “stand in solidarity with these children” and “sacrifice just a little bit of freedom” to “help Speaker Boehner grow a spine.”
Stanek said that while she has been in the pro-life movement for 16 years, she has “never felt convicted to be arrested. I've always felt my voice was well heard speaking and writing. But when this bill failed to be brought forward on January 22, I was just so frustrated and disgusted with our Republican House leadership that they would just abandon these babies over political maneuvering, that I decided right then and there that I was willing to be arrested.”
LifeSiteNews videos of the arrests showed Stanek, Newman, Mahoney, and the other five activists engaging in respectful dialogue with police as they were brought to paddy wagons outside of the Longworth office building. When asked by LifeSiteNews if police were treating them well, two activists gave an affirmative answer, with Stanek saying “very well,” and another activist said that “D.C. cops are the best.”
In a statement given to LifeSiteNews earlier today about the sit-in, Boehner spokesperson Olivia Hnat said, “Congressman Boehner is 100 percent pro-life and, indeed, the most pro-life speaker in the history of the House. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act remains an important priority for the pro-life majority that he leads in the House.”
Not all pro-life activists were behind the effort, however. LifeNews blogger Andrew Bair tweeted: “I miss the days when
#prolife people protested pro-abortion politicians, not our allies who are working to pass #prolife bills.”