A Catholic friar was arrested after prosecutors say he blocked access to a Planned Parenthood by fastening padlocks and bike locks - some with glue poured inside - to its entry gates.
After police officers and firefighters cut the locks off, Christopher Moscinski, 52, while donning a religious robe, returned and laid down in front of the gated entrance to stop cars from driving through at the clinic on Long Island, New York, on July 7, according to prosecutors.
Days later, he spoke about the spectacle with news media, admitting to putting "six locks and chains" on the gates to "try to keep that Planned Parenthood closed for as long as possible," charging court documents show.
Moscinski, of the Bronx, was arrested on Sept. 29 in connection with the July 7 event, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. He was arrested while in state jail as he serves a three-month sentence in a separate case after being accused of trespassing at an abortion clinic in White Plains, court documents state.
Now he faces a federal charge of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act following his alleged actions at the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York in Hempstead, prosecutors say. The center provides access to birth control, abortions, gynecological care, cancer screenings, HIV testing and more.
"(Moscinski) attempted to prevent women from accessing their legal right to vital reproductive and pregnancy services," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
McClatchy News contacted Moscinski's attorney for comment on Sept. 29 and was awaiting a response.
The friar arrives at Planned Parenthood
The morning of July 7, Moscinski, who is specifically a Franciscan friar, arrived at the health center wearing civilian clothing and began fastening the locks around 6:22 a.m., according to the release.
About an hour later, a Planned Parenthood worker was driving up to the center when they encountered padlocks and bike locks placed on the gates, "rendering the entrance impassable," according to court documents and the release.
Another worker called police to report the locks, and authorities responded to remove them with the help of nearby citizens before 8:11 a.m., court documents state.
Meanwhile, Moscinski came back wearing religious garb to block access to the center further with his body and was shortly arrested afterward by a Hempstead police officer, according to an affidavit and complaint.
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which Moscinski is accused of violating, was passed by Congress in 1994 following a rise "in violence toward patients and providers of reproductive health services," the release says.
First-time convictions following a violation of the federal law are considered a misdemeanor and "punishable by up to one year in federal prison," according to prosecutors. A second conviction is a felony.
The case comes after Moscinski and two others, described as "anti-abortion protesters," entered the All Women's Health and Medical Services in White Plains in November 2021, according to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. There, they were accused of illegally trespassing for two hours.
The men "disrupted facility operations and patient services, with two defendants occupying the waiting room, rendering it unusable, and another using his body to create an obstacle in one of the office doorways," an Aug. 5 news release announcing sentencing states.
Moscinski and the others were forced out of the facility by White Plains police officers who carried them out, according to the release. On Aug. 2, all three men were sentenced to three months in state jail.
Franciscan friars "serve the Catholic Church as brothers and priests," according to the group's website.
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