On Tuesday, a guilty verdict was announced for six pro-life activists for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act at an abortion facility near Nashville, Tenn. The Biden administration’s Justice Department brought the charges, which stemmed from a peaceful protest on March 5, 2021, in which a group of pro-lifers prayed and sang hymns at the entrance to the Carafem Health Center Clinic.
Video of the protest shows a group of approximately 20-30 pro-life activists peacefully praying and singing hymns while standing and sitting along the walls of a hallway leading to the door of the abortion facility, with a small segment of the group sitting directly in front of the facility’s entrance. Roughly two hours into the vigil, a number of protestors were arrested for blocking the entrance without incident.
In October 2022, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was charging 11 individuals involved in the protest with violating the federal FACE Act, which bars individuals from physically blocking the entrance to an abortion facility. Six of the defendants were eventually convicted on Tuesday, with each facing “up to a maximum of 10 and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $260,000,” with sentencing set for July 2. Four other defendants are scheduled to stand trial for misdemeanor violations of the FACE Act.
The Thomas More Society, which is representing the defendants, is expected to appeal the convictions.
The DOJ’s FACE Act prosecutions are the latest in a series of legal actions directed at pro-life activists under the Biden administration, in which at least 24 cases have been prosecuted since January 2021. At the same time, there have only been four FACE Act indictments of pro-abortion individuals related to a single attack on a pregnancy resource center in Florida, despite the fact that there have been hundreds of attacks that have occurred against churches and pregnancy resource centers during Biden’s tenure.
As noted by Family Research Council’s Arielle Del Turco during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last year, the FACE Act was originally designed to protect abortion facilities, pregnancy resource centers, and places of worship. The types of attacks committed against churches have included “vandalism, arson, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, and interruption of worship services — all of which are punishable under the FACE Act,” she emphasized.
The disparity in prosecutions has led to Congress taking notice. In October, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced a bill to repeal the FACE Act, citing the biased enforcement that is being carried out by the Biden administration. “We need to repeal it and then stop giving authority to the Department of Justice to be able to go after [pro-life] people,” he told Tony Perkins in September.
In comments to The Washington Stand, Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, questioned the priorities of the Biden administration’s DOJ in targeting pro-lifers amid a spiraling border crisis and the spreading conflict in the Middle East.
“As countless little boys and girls are being trafficked across the border and wars wage across the world, the Biden administration thinks the most important thing to focus on is prosecuting peaceful protestors attempting to save unborn babies from a brutal death,” she pointed out. “Yes, these protestors violated the FACE Act, but the Biden administration should consider spending taxpayer dollars to protect America’s border — not to stop non-violent men and women who are simply singing hymns while defending the unborn.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.
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