An anti-abortion activist has been charged with stalking and harassing a doctor who performs terminations after he plastered stickers reading “a killer lives in your neighbourhood” around the community and on the doctor’s own front door.
Aaron Jonathan Hurley, a Los Angeles resident and the leader of anti-choice group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, is accused of being part of a group who stalked the doctor and invaded the San Francisco healthcare clinic where they worked, vandalising a statue with fake blood.
Mr Hurley was charged with felony stalking, obstructing freedom of access to a clinic, two counts of vandalism, trespassing with intent to interfere and interfering with a business.
He appeared in court on Thursday where he pleaded not guilty and was released under the orders that he stay away from the doctor.
Prosecutors said that, on 13 March, Mr Hurley and others defaced and damaged a bronze statue of the Madonna and Child at the San Francisco General Hospital hospital.
The perpetrators were caught on surveillance footage covering the statue with fake blood and stickers featuring the doctor’s name.
The group also allegedly left handwritten notes with the phrases “harvested” and “sold $500” at the scene,
The next day, four people including Mr Hurley are accused of invading the women’s clinic at the hospital where they filmed patients and staff, chanted the doctor’s name and tried to break into operating rooms.
Prosecutors said a woman posed as someone in need of counselling so that she could gain access to the clinic while the group hid nearby.
When a nurse went to speak with her, Mr Hurley and the group burst into the clinic and began filming patients and staff and trying to access operating rooms, according to prosecutors.
The group allegedly started chanting the doctor’s name and shouting: “We know who you are, we know what you do.”
The doctor, other staff and patients at the clinic were “terrified for their safety”, prosectors said.
The alleged harassment continued that night when the group including Mr Hurley targeted the doctor’s home address.
They left permanent stickers reading “a killer lives in your neighborhood” on neighbour’s houses and on the doctor’s front door.
Fliers were also distributed around the doctor’s neighbourhood displaying a QR code for a website that named the doctor and made false claims about abortions.
DA Chesa Boudin said the alleged harassment has left the doctor in fear of their safety.
“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 said in a statement.
“The doctor was forced to change their entire personal routine and route to work out of fear for their safety.”
The incident comes as abortion rights in the US are under attack, with the landmark Roe v Wade ruling hanging in the balance.
Earlier this month, a draft majority opinion from the US Supreme Court was leaked revealing that the nation’s highest court had decided to strike down the ruling that grants Americans a constitutional right to an abortion.
Around half of all US states are expected to ban abortion altogether as soon as Roe is overturned, with several Republican governors already restricting access to women in their states.
This week, Oklahoma passed a law banning all abortions at any stage of pregnancy with the only exception being rape or incest if it has been reported to law enforcement.
While red states are backpedaling on women’s healthcare and abortion rights, some Democrat leaders are introducing measures to protect abortion access in their states if Roe is overturned.
In California – where Mr Hurley alleged harassed the doctor – abortion rights have been enshrined into state law and Governor Gavin Newsom has vowed to expand access further to people seeking care from out of state.
Mr Hurley is next scheduled to appear in court on 13 June.
One of his alleged accomplices Kristen Turner was also cited and released.
Meanwhile, a third suspect – Lauren Brice Handy – has a warrant out for her arrest.