By Hannah Sarisohn and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
A Los Angeles man is facing multiple charges after prosecutors allege he was part of a group of anti-abortion activists who targeted a women’s health clinic and stalked a doctor who provides abortion services, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Aaron Jonathan Hurley is accused of participating in the invasion of a clinic and vandalizing a statue of the Madonna and Child with fake blood at the San Francisco General Hospital, prosecutors said in a news release.
Hurley pleaded not guilty to charges of stalking and threatening an abortion provider during a court appearance in San Francisco on Thursday, according to Rachel Marshall, spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Hurley, a resident of Los Angeles, was released from custody on orders to stay away from the doctor. His lawyer is required to notify the DA’s office if Hurley returns to San Francisco.
The judge denied the DA’s request for electronic monitoring, Marshall told CNN.
He’s due back in court for a pre-trial hearing June 13.
Abortion clinics and doctors who provide abortions are under renewed attention following a leaked draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a federal right to abortion. Votes and language in opinions could change before a formal decision is released, likely in late June. But revelation of the draft has left activists on both sides of the abortion debate bracing for a reality in which abortion rights are left up to state legislatures.
Even if Roe is overturned, the right to an abortion is protected by state law in California until the fetus is considered viable and in cases where the procedure is necessary for the patient’s health.
On March 13, Hurley and others allegedly “defaced and damaged” a bronze statue of the Madonna and Child at the hospital by covering it in fake blood and stickers with the name of a doctor who — among other health care services — provides abortions, the DA’s office said.
The next day, Hurley and others allegedly trespassed in the Women’s Options Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which offers abortion services. The group included a woman who allegedly pretended to be seeking counseling to get a nurse to come to the door, at which point members of the group “came out from hiding” and ran through the door and into the clinic, the release said.
Hurley and others “barged into the clinic and began filming patients and staff. Staff reported that these protesters were attempting to barge into operating rooms,” the release said.
The group also allegedly entered the clinic where the doctor being targeted works and were “chanting the doctor’s name and, ‘We know who you are, we know what you do,'” according to the DA’s office, which added that the group “harassed staff and patients, causing them to fear for their safety.”
Later that night, Hurley and others allegedly placed stickers that said “a killer lives in your neighborhood” on the doctor’s front door and at their neighbors’ houses, the DA’s office said. The group is also accused of placing flyers around the doctor’s neighborhood with a QR code that led to a website that “specifically named the doctor, provided false, inflammatory claims about abortion procedures, and attacked the doctor for providing abortion services.”
“The doctor was frightened for their safety and the safety of their family, given that the doctor was targeted at both their home and work,” the DA’s office said, adding the medical professional “was forced to change their entire personal routine and route to work out of fear for their safety.”
Another individual allegedly connected with the anti-abortion group’s actions “was cited and released,” and an arrest warrant is pending for another suspect, the DA’s office said, adding the investigation is ongoing.
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