Pittsburgh Judge Raymond A. Novak ordered pro-life activist Joan Andrews Bell to Allegheny County Jail for 3 to 23 months on January 15 for refusing to sign a probation form promising to stay away from abortion facilities.
Bell, a 49-year-old Roman Catholic from Bayonne, New Jersey, has been arrested 200 times, and in the 1980s spent almost two years in solitary confinement in a Florida prison.
The criminal trespass case arises from a May 1985 passive resistance sit-in Bell and 14 others conducted inside Women's Health Services in Pittsburgh. She barricaded herself in an examination room of Women's Health Services, unwrapped sterilized instruments, and refused to leave. Police had to cut the lock on the door and drag her out after she went limp.
Novak originally sentenced Bell to three years probation in 1988, with orders not to trespass at abortion facilities. Bell refused, and Novak ordered her arrest last fall.
"I will not obey unjust laws nor consent to cooperate with the murder of the sacred lives of God's precious children," she says.
Bell's attorney Richard Traynor maintains that "Pennsylvania law prohibits the court from requiring the defendant to violate her conscience by assenting to a formal condition of probation."
At the end of her court case in January, Bell had to be carried from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.
Don Treshman, national director of the Baltimore-based Rescue America, says Bell's passive resistance strategy helped ignite the spark to start his organization.1