published : 2023-12-10

Ohio Woman Pleads Guilty to Vandalizing Pro-Life Reproductive Health Clinic

Whitney M. Durant faces up to one year in prison for defacing the health clinic

An image of Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chair, passionately speaking about the importance of defending the GOP's stance on abortion. (Photo taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

An Ohio woman has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after defacing a pro-life reproductive health clinic earlier this year. Whitney M. Durant, also known as Soren Monroe, admitted to painting derogatory messages on the clinic walls and potentially faces jail time for her actions.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division emphasized that defacing facilities providing reproductive health services will not be tolerated in society. The Justice Department is committed to enforcing the FACE Act, which protects patients seeking reproductive health services and the facilities that provide such services.

The incident occurred on April 15, when Durant, 20, painted messages including 'LIARS,' 'Fake clinic,' 'Fund Abortion,' 'Abort God,' and 'Jane’s Revenge' on the HerChoice clinic in Bowling Green, Ohio. At that time, Durant was attending Bowling Green State University.

While acknowledging the right to protest, Assistant Attorney General Clarke asserted that protest must remain peaceful. She argued that Durant had 'crossed a line' by defacing the clinic, which does not offer abortion services or referrals according to their website.

A photo of Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, emphasizing the commitment to enforcing the FACE Act and protecting reproductive health services. (Photo taken with a Nikon D850)

Ohio law permits abortion up until the point of viability, which is the stage of pregnancy when a fetus has developed enough to survive outside the uterus with medical assistance. However, the exact point of viability remains a contentious issue.

In a recent referendum, Ohio voters supported enshrining abortion as a guaranteed protection in the state's constitution. Nevertheless, lawmakers have pledged to challenge this decision.

HerChoice, also known as the Bowling Green Pregnancy Center (BGPC), is a pro-life pregnancy center that provides free pregnancy and STI testing, ultrasounds, parenting classes, and supplies for infants and toddlers.

Whitney M. Durant was charged under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits intentional damage or destruction of reproductive health service facilities. U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio affirmed that federal laws protecting uninterrupted access to all such clinics will be enforced, regardless of whether they provide abortion care or only present alternative options.

A picture of Whitney M. Durant, also known as Soren Monroe, the Ohio woman who pleaded guilty to vandalizing the pro-life reproductive health clinic. (Photo taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III)

Durant's sentencing is set for April 9, 2024, and she may face a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Amidst this incident, HerChoice released a statement expressing gratitude to local and federal law enforcement for their cooperation in the case. The center emphasized its commitment to being a peaceful community where diverse ideas can be communicated respectfully and non-violently. HerChoice continues to provide support and assistance for women facing pregnancy decisions.

As the case unfolds, it highlights the ongoing controversy surrounding reproductive health services and the fervent debates between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

The ramifications of this plea and the potential sentence Durant may face serve as a reminder of the consequences of crossing legal boundaries while expressing one's views. It brings into focus the importance of peaceful and respectful engagement on contentious issues within society.