About Fidelis Moscinski & Witness for Life

“Fidelis” Moscinski is an anti-abortion Franciscan priest based in the Bronx. He was ordained in 2001 and belongs to the Franciscan Friars, a religious congregation founded in 1987 by Benedict Groeschel. Moscinski is also a serial abortion clinic invader.

For years, Moscinski has been a leader of the Archdiocese of New York’s anti-abortion Witness for Life program. Witness for Life harasses reproductive health clinic patients on a weekly basis. Once the group’s walking procession—sometimes numbering over 100 people—reaches its target clinic, participants intimidate patients by praying, holding offensive signs, and engaging in “sidewalk counseling” to coerce patients into changing their minds or turning back.

On the first Saturday of every month, Fidelis leads anti-abortion churchgoers from the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral to stand in front of the Planned Parenthood on Bleecker Street.

Fidelis’s group claims to be peaceful, but we’ve seen them engage in violence against counter-protestors, abortion activists, patients, and providers. They even have one person, Bernadette Patel, dedicated to wearing a pink vest to impersonate real Planned Parenthood clinic escorts to trick patients into talking to her.

Moscinski appears to have strong ties to the NYPD, which provides Witness for Life with an escort for its “procession” from Old St. Patrick’s to Planned Parenthood every month. He is often seen in huddles with high ranking officers, jokes with them, and points out protestors to them. Moscinski also has ties to NYC’s anti-vaccine community. In January 2022, he attended the “Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming” rally in DC. He has been spotted at anti-vax rallies in NYC, and sometimes wears an anti-vaccine pin. The NYC anti-vaccine community overlaps with far- and alt-right circles.

Moscinski has participated in over 15 clinic invasions around the country and has been arrested multiple times for these invasions. His first was in 1989, with Operation Rescue. More recently, he has been invading clinics as part of the Red Rose Rescue movement, an extension of the far-right anti-abortion movement of the late 1980s and early ’90s. These “rescues” involve anti-abortion people forcefully entering reproductive health clinics and interacting with patients in the goal of getting them to cancel their appointments. This usually results in patients and providers being moved to a safer place while police officers remove the limp anti-abortioners from the clinic.

On July 7, 2022, for example, Moscinski invaded the Planned Parenthood in Hempstead, NY. He used bicycle locks to close the gated entrance to the clinic, blocking patients from entering or leaving. He then lay on the ground in front of cars to restrict patients’ clinic access, and harassed patients outside of the gates to deter them from obtaining care.

This harassment outside of abortion clinics is tied to a belief system that denies pregnant people’s bodily autonomy, using coercion, shame, and intimidation to force their beliefs on others. Everyone has the right to access reproductive healthcare without facing harassment, stigmatizing language, and intolerant religious activity while entering an abortion clinic.

For more on Operation Rescue, see this post.