Ashley Garecht has not given up the hope of justice for her teenage daughters after a Pennsylvania state lawmaker bullied them publicly this spring in Philadelphia.
On Monday, she met with lawmakers at the state Capitol to urge them to publicly censure state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and abortion activist, for his inappropriate behavior, according to the Capital-Star.
“[Sims] needs to be held accountable,” Garecht said. “He needs to make a public, specific, genuine apology for what he did to [my daughters].”
In May, Sims posted a public video online of himself berating an older pro-life sidewalk counselor outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Philadelphia. A second video that he posted in April showed him offering $100 for the identities of Garecht’s daughters, ages 13 and 15, who were praying peacefully outside the abortion facility with their mother.
Sims never apologized to the women or girls, but he did apologize to Planned Parenthood for making abortion activists look bad.
“If [the House does] walk away and say it is acceptable for an elected state representative to declare himself as such, and then attack the First Amendment rights of minors and female citizens, then they are not doing their job,” Garecht told the news outlet.
Earlier this month, state Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill, introduced a resolution to formally rebuke Sims. The measure calls for the Philadelphia representative to be removed from all standing committees and to not be appointed to any future leadership positions or committees for the remainder of the term.
Currently, 38 sponsors are listed on the resolution.
“As you know, Rep. Sims recorded himself, on two separate occasions, verbally attacking individuals who were peacefully protesting at Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania,” Knowles said in a statement. “Rep. Sims has yet to publicly apologize to the victims of his actions, and to the PA House of Representatives for the shame that he has brought upon this institution.”
But Bill Patton, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania House Democrats, said the resolution is “odd and misplaced.” He told the local news that party leaders already discussed the matter with Sims.
“It’s not our place to tell Rep. Knowles how to spend his time, but his obsession with this unfortunate incident is odd and misplaced,” Patton said.
Despite a huge protest and national media attention, state Democratic leaders did not take any action to condemn Sims’ behavior. In May, Patton told the Philadelphia Inquirer that they are “satisfied” with Sims’ promise that he will not behave that way again.
State Republican leaders condemned Sims’ behavior, but Knowles’ resolution would add weight to their words.
“By soliciting strangers on the internet for their personal identifying information (i.e. names and addresses), Sims placed these citizens in reasonable fear for their own safety, merely because they were exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest,” Knowles said.
He also criticized Sims for using his public office to intimidate peaceful individuals who were exercising their free speech rights.
Maria V. Gallagher, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, praised the effort.
“Women and girls should not be harassed simply for exercising their First Amendment rights,” Gallagher told LifeNews earlier this month. “For the sake of the dignity of women, the Constitution, and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, this resolution deserves passage.”
In May, about 1,000 pro-lifers held a peaceful rally in Philadelphia, calling for the state lawmaker to apologize and resign. LifeNews.com also began a petition calling for Sims’ resignation; it has more than 34,000 signatures.
Additionally, the Garecht family raised nearly $130,000 in an online fundraiser to support mothers and babies in Philadelphia in response to Sims’ actions.
One of the videos that Sims posted showed part of his interaction with a mother and her teenage daughters who were praying outside the Planned Parenthood on the Thursday before Easter. In the video, Sims offered viewers $100 to identify the 13- and 15-year-old girls.
“What we’ve got here is a bunch of … pseudo Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here. So, here’s the deal, I’ve got $100 to anybody who will identify these three, and I will donate to Planned Parenthood,” Sims said in the video.
His requests suggest that the state representative may have been trying to intimidate the girls through doxing, a practice where a person’s name and contact information are posted publicly online usually to encourage harassment.
Sims’ actions may have violated consent and cyberbullying laws. The Philadelphia police and district attorney’s office said they are looking into the incident.
In another video, Sims also appeared to be attempting to dox another pro-life woman – he called her an “old white lady” – by asking his viewers for her name and address.
In the wake of national publicity, Sims released a statement where he did not apologize for his behavior. Instead, he chose to attack pro-life advocates even more by claiming they “slur” and “attack” Planned Parenthood patients – without providing any evidence to support his claims.
Action: Contact Pennsylvania House lawmakers and ask them to support the resolution.