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From left to right: Julia Haag, Father Stephen Imbarrato, Joan McKee Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews
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‘Red Rose Rescuers’ appear in court, plead ‘not guilty’ to charges of entering abortion center

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire
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Pro-lifers in Washington, D.C. distributed these red roses with miraculous medals and pregnancy help information on December 2, 2017. Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest pleaded “not guilty” this morning to unlawful entry inside an abortion facility. The case moved forward, with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for May 23 and the actual trial on June 25.

The priest, Father Stephen Imbarrato, and two other pro-life activists, Julia Haag and Joan McKee (collectively the “D.C. three”), will be tried together in June for their December 2 Red Rose Rescue. They entered an abortion facility operated by Steven Bingham at 6323 Georgia Ave NW, Suite 210 and gave roses and pro-life information to the women inside.

The D.C. three are being tried in the Superior Court of D.C. Haag and McKee had already both been arraigned at an earlier date. Both pleaded “not guilty.”

The “Rescue” movement began during the early days of the pro-life movement. It was normal for pro-life activists to enter abortion facilities to counsel women and even chain themselves to abortion equipment to prevent abortions from occurring. Many babies were saved this way.

In Canada, Mary Wagner continues to use this approach.

In 1994, then-President Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to physically block women from obtaining abortions. FACE effectively ended the widespread use of normal rescue tactics.

But, inspired by Mary Wagner, the Red Rose Rescue movement focuses on distributing red roses to mothers inside abortion centers and urging them to choose life. No one involved in the Red Rose Rescue has been charged with violating FACE.

Imbarrato, Haag, and McKee are represented by Paul Kiyonaga, who is ranked by Washingtonian magazine as one of the area’s top lawyers. (This magazine’s lists have significant clout in the D.C. area.)

Kiyonaga informed Judge Frederick Weisberg that the pro-lifers intend to use a defense of necessity and/or one related to acting on their consciences. The May 23 pre-trial hearing will be when Kiyonaga explains these arguments in more detail; Weisberg will then decide whether they can be used.

Weisberg indicated he doesn’t think witnesses at that hearing will be necessary, but Kiyonaga said they may be. Kiyonaga will have to state his intentions about having witnesses at that hearing in a motion due April 17.

Michigan pro-lifers on trial today

There have been six Red Rose Rescues in the U.S. so far. They took place in Virginia, Michigan, and New Mexico in September 2017 and Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Michigan on December 2, 2017.

The only Red Rose Rescue where the pro-life activists chose not to risk arrest was in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September 2017.

Today in Sterling Heights, Michigan, the trial of four Red Rose Rescuers, Will Goodman, Matthew Connolly, Abby McIntyre, and Monica Migliorino Miller, began. The rescue for which they are being charged with trespassing was on September 15, 2017.

Migliorino Miller is the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and a veteran pro-life activist. She is the author of Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars. She holds a Ph.D. from Marquette University and is an associate professor at Madonna University.

That trial is expected to last all day and possibly into Friday, February 16.

For all of LifeSite’s reporting on the Red Rose Rescues, click here.

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