Two people charged with vandalizing anti-abortion centers in Hialeah and Hollywood

  • In US
  • 2023-01-27 11:00:00Z
  • By Miami Herald

A federal grand jury indicted two people on charges they vandalized anti-abortion health facilities in Florida with spray-painted threats to intimidate employees, including in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Caleb Freestone, 27, of Miami-Dade County and Amber Smith-Stewart, 23, of Orange County are accused of engaging in a conspiracy to spray-paint "threats of force and other intimidating messages" on the property of the pregnancy resource centers "in order to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate the employees of those facilities in their ability to provide reproductive health services," according to the indictment handed up this week by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida.

The duo, who were arrested Monday, wore disguises such as masks, hats, and gloves when they targeted the pregnancy resource centers, which provide counseling, pregnancy testing and ultrasound examinations, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Freestone, Smith-Stewart and other co-conspirators on or about May 28, 2022, spray- painted threats, including "If abortions aren't SAFE then niether [sic] are you," at a Hollywood facility affiliated with the Archdiocese of Miami. This happened several weeks after a Supreme Court draft was leaked and showed the justices planned to strike down Roe v. Wade.

On June 24, 2022, the court reversed Roe v. Wade, overturning women's constitutional right to an abortion, a right upheld for nearly 50 years after the court's landmark 1973 ruling. As a result of the court's decision, each state has more power to decide its own abortion policy, including outlawing the procedure.

READ MORE: Was abortion illegal in Florida before Roe v. Wade? Are there restrictions now?

Freestone and Smith-Stewart are also accused of spray-painting threats on or about June 26, 2022, at a Winter Haven facility, including "YOUR TIME IS UP!!" "WE'RE COMING for U" and "We are everywhere." That incident was two days after the court ruling overturning Roe.

Freestone, the indictment alleges, also went with others on or about July 3, 2022 - about a week after the Supreme Court reversal - to a pregnancy resource center in Hialeah to spray-paint threats including "If abortions aren't safe the [sic] neither are you."

The indictment doesn't identify the targeted facilities by name. As the Herald has previously reported, Pregnancy Help Medical Clinic, 390 W. 49th St. in Hialeah, was vandalized in early July. A similar act of vandalism happened at the Archdiocese of Miami's South Broward Pregnancy Help Center in Hollywood during Memorial Day weekend,

READ NEXT: Police investigate 'hate crime' vandalism at a Hialeah pro-life pregnancy center

The indictment alleges Freestone and Smith-Stewart violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, which prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage that's meant to interfere with a clinic's ability to provide reproductive health services.

The pregnancy health centers listed in the indictment were targeted between May and July, which is when discussions about abortion rights heated up after the leaked court opinion in May and the court ruling at the end of June.

In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning most abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The new law went into effect July 1. The Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected requests to temporarily halt the 15-week abortion law.

READ MORE: FDA says pharmacies can now give abortion pills by prescription. What about in Florida?

If convicted of the offenses, Freestone and Smith-Stewart each face up to a maximum of 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.


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