Red Rose Rescue (RRR) is the group of pro-lifers who peacefully try to convince women inside abortion centers not to kill their children. One reason I joined RRR is because they are among the only pro-lifers I know who not only have it in their head—but also their heart—that the unborn child is just as much a child as, say, a toddler or teenager. If this doesn’t make sense, please read this most recent trial, in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. It may move you to tears how we (including me) have all missed the humanity of the unborn child Even those of us in the pro-life movement have missed the reality of this genocide. I have been arrested twice with RRR for our peaceful work in abortion centers, even though I’m still learning from them. I have a trial coming up on 10 Mar 2023, also in New Jersey. So if you don’t see any blogs or hear any podcasts from me for awhile, it’s probably because I’m in jail (or because I’m dealing with the continued declining health of an immediate family member.) These two issues will be hard to balance, so please pray for my family of origin.
On October 14, 2020, four Red Rose Rescuers intervened at the notorious “Planned Parenthood” abortion mill in Shrewsbury, NJ. Many local pro-lifers also prayed and counseled on the surrounding sidewalks and in the abortuary parking lot. The result of this united action: the abortion mill closed down that day!
Today in the Shrewsbury Municipal Center building, these same four rescuers came to bear witness to their personal reasons for defending life, and thus continue the rescue mission inside the courtroom
The morning’s proceedings are a continuation of the trial which commenced back on October 19th, 2022. On that date, prosecution offered the testimony of four police officers who were present on the day of the rescue operation.
This morning, all of the rescuers testified on behalf of the voiceless preborn, and shared foundational evidence to support a legal defense of necessity.
The context of this testimony directly relates to a 19 page legal brief submitted by pro-life attorney Vincent Sanzone, Esq., in conjunction with assistance from constitutional attorney Rob Muise, Esq. This brief argues for an affirmative “Defense Of Others,” proving that the rescuers were legally entitled to protect the preborn by “justified necessity” on the day of the rescue.
Drawing from New Jersey state documents, policy, and case law, Sanzone demonstrated in his submitted brief both a “defense of” and “protection for” the preborn as legal persons.
“All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.” N.J.S.A. Const. Art. 1, Section 1, Paragraph 1. (1947)
Thus, in New Jersey, there is a natural and unalienable right for “defending life,” including the life of the preborn, who are worthy of such defense, and worthy of obtaining “safety and happiness.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court stated in a decision which has never been overturned:
“We are satisfied that the unborn child is entitled to the law’s protection and that
an appropriate order should be made to… [ensure the health of the child].” Cf., Raleigh Fitkin-Paul Morgan Memorial Hosp. v. Anderson, 42 N.J. 421 (1964).
Therefore, the preborn child is worthy of protection.
These and other legal arguments are established in the written brief for affirmative defense.
The first witness for the preborn was Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, who explained that as a member the Conventual Friars of the Renewal religious order, he has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to pro-life work, including: preaching, praying, retreats, charitable outreach to pregnant mothers in crisis and their babies, and serving as Chairman of the Board for Good Counsel Homes, a network of free maternity homes in New York and New Jersey.
In response to a question from Sanzone about why he chose Shrewsbury for his mission, Fr. Fidelis responded:
“This town tolerates the killing of babies by an evil organization [Planned Parenthood] which makes money by such killing. I was present in order to intervene to help babies at the last moment.”
Sharing his Catholic faith as a Priest, Fr. Fidelis explained:
“In the first book of Sacred Scripture, Genesis, God tells us that each person is created in His ‘image and likeness,’ with a dignity and value greater than anything else in the world… God also commands, ‘thou shall not kill.’ For two thousand years, Church Councils, documents, and catechisms have unanimously taught the inherent sacredness of all human life.”
Continuing, Fr. Fidelis added, “…the Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of science in the objective determination of when human life begins. Every credible medical expert understands very clearly that life begins at conception.”
At this point the prosecutor objected to Fr. Fidelis’ statement, stating that Father was not sworn in as an expert witness.
Mr. Sanzone argued before Judge James E. Berube, Jr., JMC, that the recent US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs accepted the language of, and scientific evidence from, the Mississippi law recognizing that the baby in the womb is a legal person. Further, Vincent explained that this language in New Jersey law and US law define the baby at conception, and the Supreme Court clearly grants protections from the point when a baby’s heartbeat can be detected.
While the judge sustained the objection, Mr. Sanzone was given latitude to question Father as a Catholic Priest who is offering his informed opinions.
Therefore, Fr. Fidelis repeated his statements above, and then added that there is “an obligation for Roman Catholics to defend innocent lives.”
“This obligation derives from Jesus, Who teaches us to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ We cannot claim to love another person without coming to their defense. Further, Christ says, ‘whatever you do to the least of My brethren, you do unto Me.’ Whatever we do to others, we do to Jesus. …So we must protect each human life. All Baptized Catholics are called to live this… I went to the abortion mill because I wanted to talk to mothers, and try to persuade them with a non-violent intervention… handing out roses and support information… I sat down in a chair and waited to speak… And I prayed the Rosary in the waiting room until I was removed.”
When Vincent asked Father why he didn’t leave the killing facility, Fidelis added, “If I left, I would have lost any opportunity to aid those in crisis. I needed to stay… To persuade mothers not to have abortions, but get up and walk out.”
The second witness for life was rescuer Will Goodman. Vincent asked him to explain to the court where he lives and the type of work he does.
“I’m homeless.” said Goodman. “I have no permanent residence while I travel to do this pro-life apostolate. I’ve been a human rights activist and advocate since 1993. I’ve worked as an advocate for the elderly, the disabled, the terminally ill, and in many different levels of the pro-life movement. But most of my time has been focused on assisting pre-born children and their mothers.”
When asked by his legal counsel: “Are you a faithful Catholic? Why do you do what you do?”
“I am Catholic. And I do try to be a faithful Catholic… I’m motivated to do this pro-life work because the Church teaches that we are created by God out of love– and for love. Catholicism emphasizes that we are especially called to love the most vulnerable. We also believe that the commandment, ‘thou shall not kill,’ applies to all persons at every stage of life.”
Later on in the testimony, Will was asked about his encounter with the police.
“I recall the officer saying, ‘I don’t want to arrest you.’ We had a respectful dialogue in the hallway inside the front door. The policeman seemed sympathetic, and said he knew why we were there and understood what we were doing… He invited me to go to the sidewalk several times and said he wouldn’t arrest me if I simply left. He kept saying he didn’t want to arrest us.”
When asked by the prosecutor, “Do you know why you were arrested?”
Goodman sighed, “…I suppose because the people committing the abortions don’t want anyone to talk with the women about life-giving alternatives. And unfortunately the police decided to help the abortion facility.”
On re-direct, Mr. Goodman explained why he stayed inside the abortion facility:
“We need to love one another… love those who are in danger… love those in need. And remain with them… Not abandon them… As Catholics we are called to help all those who are in critical need, and have a special duty to protect the most defenseless and abandoned.”
The next pro-life witness to take the stand was Joan Bell, who on the day of the rescue was able to speak to a pregnant mother and offer her the gift of a red rose.
Mr. Sanzone had Joan talk about her family and how she and her husband Chris have seven children, six of whom were adopted, and five who have significant physical disabilities.
Prosecution objected to the relevance of this information.
Sanzone, however, explained that this information was foundational to her affirmative defense based upon her belief about the sacredness of human life.
“Joan is known throughout the world for her rescue work,” Vincent exclaimed.
The judge stated that Mrs. Bell could speak about her children generally, but would not be able to go into any deeper descriptions of her adoptions or their children’s disabilities.
When Vincent asked Bell about why she rescues, and what started her on this path, she explained:
“I got involved when I was 24 as soon as Roe was decided. I knew that babies were being killed. I also knew that I could not face God when I died if I did nothing. I had heard about the Nazi holocaust from my parents… my dad was in World War II and my mom was a nurse… They told me about the innocent people who died. And about Christians who worked to save the Jews and risk their own lives. One Catholic family in Austria helped three Jewish families hide from the gestapo after watching Nazi soldiers shoot innocent civilians, including a pregnant woman and her unborn baby…. ”
Again the prosecutor objected. “What does this have to do with the charges?” he asked.
The judge had Vincent move along with his examination.
Speaking to her own experiences, Bell noted that she started in the 70s working with her sister taking in pregnant mothers who had nowhere to go.
“This led to doing rescues to protect children from being killed. The Bible says to ‘protect those being drawn to death… Do not hold back.’ We must obey this command. …It is imperative to help the little babies… to rescue them.”
It seemed as Joan spoke these powerful words, she became much more emotional and began to tear up a little. Her voice cracked a bit as her diction slowed.
“…It is imperative to help the little babies… to rescue them.”
Following more questions from her attorney, Joan also shared the work she does with her husband in running the Good Counsel Homes network which has been serving families since 1985.
“The moms may be poor, or homeless, or have many children with no place to go… We accept them and their babies… There is no charge. They can stay for all nine months of pregnancy, and for a year or longer after the baby is born. We help them with anything they need. Over 100 mothers with children have lived in our homes and thousands have been helped. Thousands of great stories. Some of these moms later work for Good Counsel.”
At this point the trial, unexpectedly, came to a complete halt.
In the silent courtroom, Mr. Sanzone sat down and could be heard quietly crying.
No one spoke a word.
Respectfully, the judge asked court personnel to give him a moment, and Berube took the court off the record.
Sanzone, a devout Catholic and Knight of Malta whose organization helps severely sick and disabled children, was visibly moved and broke down as a result of all of the loving words of truth that Joan had shared.
Seconds turned to minutes.
In the quiet hush of the courtroom, it seemed as if this lion-hearted knight was weeping for all the millions of babies lost to abortion violence, and that their own cries were even now being made manifest within the halls of government.
Chris Bell, who was in the courtroom noted, “this moment was like a great prayer… Like Christ weeping for His friend Lazarus who had died… Or when our Lord was weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane,” continuing he related, “…it is so clear how Mr. Sanzone has a truly deep passion for this cause of protecting the innocent.”
Once the trial was back on the record, Joan detailed how she had grown up in Tennessee and witnessed the injustices of segregation.
“They said ‘separate but equal,’ but there was no equality for those who were black… It was terrible for them… Today there is no equality for the babies in the womb….”
The prosecutor, himself being black, objected and said that he fully understood what Mrs. Bell was saying, but that her comments were not relevant.
Some seated in the gallery whispered about the irony of this objection.
So Vincent asked Joan about her goals for the Shrewsbury rescue.
“My goal was to try to save little babies from being brutally killed without anesthetics… to help the women to do the right thing… to let them know that there is real help and that we’d adopt the baby. This effort is just like going out into the street to rescue a person who is about to be hit by a car. It’s no different. And we do this gently. We don’t believe in violence. We use non-violent direct action. We go to the abortion mill to be there, to love these children, to name them, pray for them, spiritually baptize them… We were there to save lives… That day I spoke to one woman, I offered her a rose and some pregnancy resources in a pamphlet… I told her that, ‘we are here to help you and your little baby… We can help.’ …But the abortion staff pulled her into a back office.”
During cross examination, Joan was asked why she did not leave the abortion mill waiting room when instructed by the police:
“I said to the police, ‘Please help us! Help us rescue the babies. You swore an oath to protect the innocent and just, those who are about to die. You are supposed to help the innocent and just’.”
The final witness for the defense was Matthew Connolly.
Typically, Matthew prefers to remain in total silent solidarity with the preborn babies whenever he is in a courtroom. But today his attorney, Sanzone, requested that he testify verbally to his beliefs so that a legal foundation could be laid for his own affirmative defense of necessity.
When asked why he went to this particular abortuary, Connolly replied:
“I went to this location on this day because of what is commonly done at this place– children are scheduled to be killed. I came to prevent the traumas that mothers have from unnatural invasive acts that happen in their womb. And I came to help the children… Christ calls us to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ and also refrain from omitting what can be done to help others in need… As Catholics, we are called to ‘choose life,’ — this is a positive command. And we are likewise given a negative proscription, ‘thou shall not kill.’ In our faith we are obligated to offer help to the needy, as well as expose injustice by peaceful means.”
When asked about his goals in the October 2020 rescue, Matthew detailed his individual perspective:
“Personally, abortion was committed against my own mother, leaving her very traumatized. Later, she would seek healing. I didnt want to see any other woman go through such trauma and pain. Any time that a child dies, this leaves the parents hurting. My goal was to save children too, with roses. I even peacefully offered roses to the staff there, begging them to refrain from their serial killing… But the rose I offered was struck down.”
On cross-examination, Matthew was asked if the police demanded him to leave, and further, why he did not leave.
“I don’t know what the police said, I was focused on prayer. I was praying that the women would be protected, praying they would have hope, and these mothers would be persuaded to choose life… I didn’t even hear the police. I continued praying. Inside the doors of the Planned Parenthood, I was focused on prayer… I remained in solidarity with the women and children. I was oblivious to any conversations of the police. So I do not know what they said.”
The prosecutor asked Matthew who gave him permission to be there.
“God gave permission to be there… I just went inside… the staff member held the door open for me… I spoke to the two women entering there and tried to hand them roses, but the mill workers hindered me from passing the rose.”
The prosecutor sought to have Connolly prove that there wera actual abortions going on that Wednesday.
Matthew said, “Well, it’s an abortion mill. That’s what they do.”
He also affirmed that the killing days are known by the local pro-lifers, plus information is available on the abortuary website, and that he had prayed and counseled pregnant mothers there on other Wednesdays. He also shared that Red Rose Rescuers had helped save a mom and baby at this very killing facility on a Wednesday two weeks before the rescue!
With this, the defense concluded their testimony, and they rested their case.
At this point the judge followed up with both attorneys asking questions regarding motions and the affirmative defense, viz., the defense of others.
The prosecutor stated that he had received the defense’s 19 page legal brief and had asked the court for time to respond consequent to the defendant’s testimony.
Judge Berube told the state that now the defense has rested, amd they have 15 days to prepare their written response to the defense’s legal arguments, and present any motions.
Further, the judge said that attorney Vincent Sanzone will also have 15 days to reply to the prosecutor’s response after it has been received.
When both sets of legal replies and motions are completed, judge Berube will review them and schedule a date for final summations and the delivery of his verdict.
“By God’s grace, the rescuers were living witnesses of the babies in the courtroom today,” noted Chris Bell, “and Mr. Sanzone offered a very powerful, fitting, intelligent and emotional plea for the lives of the unborn.”
When the schedule is set for the next phase of the trial, Red Rose Rescue will send out the new court date and time.
Please keep praying for the judge, the prosecutor, court personnel, the police, the abortion staff, Mr. Sanzone, the rescuers, and those mothers and babies so loved by Almighty God.
Website for maternity homes listed across the country: www.GoodCounselHomes.org and national 24/7 helpline 1.800.723.8331