The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that it plans to bring contempt-of-court proceedings against three alleged participants of the Project Rescue blockade that shut down an Escondido doctor’s office Saturday.
The ACLU named Will Lehman of Vista, Connie Youngkin of Poway and Jeff White, whose hometown could not be determined, as three of the participants in the blockade. The ACLU said the three will be served with papers that require them to attend an April 24 hearing to show why they should not be held in contempt, said Betty Wheeler, legal director for the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Despite a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge last Wednesday to bar such activity, more than 300 Project Rescue participants showed up to block entrances of the Town Center Professional Building in Escondido. The demonstration was aimed at the office of Dr. Ying Chen, who performs abortions.
“We will show evidence why they should be held in contempt of court,” Wheeler said. Among the evidence she said she will bring is a statement by one of Chen’s patients, described only as “Jane Doe,” whose appointment for an abortion was canceled Saturday.
Wheeler said that, according to Doe’s declaration, a friend drove Doe to the doctor’s office on Saturday, where they saw that the doors to the facility were blocked by abortion foes. When they drove to a nearby pay phone and called the office, an employee told her that she would not be able to reschedule her abortion until a week later. In her declaration, Doe said it was “upsetting to have my pregnancy prolonged because of the actions of the people blocking Dr. Chen’s building.”
Several employees also showed up that day, but quickly left.
Wheeler said the three named for their alleged participation also participated in other blockades conducted by Operation Rescue, a group that was the inspiration for San Diego’s Project Rescue. White, whose disregard of court orders has been “very contemptuous,” was arrested at a blockade in Chico, she added.
None of the alleged participants could be reached for comment Wednesday. Both Operation Rescue and Project Rescue participants have expressed a willingness to go to jail in their crusade to “rescue” unborn children.
Wheeler said the ACLU will also bring contempt proceedings against participants who violated a temporary restraining order and participated in blockades in Chico and Oakland on March 11, and anyone who participates in Operation Rescue blockades in Los Angeles, scheduled from today through Saturday.
Although Wheeler said in a press conference last week that the ACLU would be asking for fines up to $10,000, she was unsure of the penalties that would be levied. “The judge will look at individual degrees of participation and assess the penalties accordingly,” she said.