On Sept. 15, a federal jury convicted three pro-life activists with felony conspiracy against rights and for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and could be sentenced to upwards of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $350,000, according to a Department of Justice release. .
Jonathan Darnel (41), Jean Marshall (73) and Joan Bell (74) all belong to the Progressive Anti-abortion Uprising (PAAU) group that’s mission, according to their website, is to “achieve socio-political justice for the preborn by mobilizing anti-abortion activists for direct action and opposing elective abortion through a progressive lens.”
They believed that blocking access to a Washington area abortion clinic was saving babies’ lives.
“U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who presided over the trial, ordered the defendants immediately detained as required by statute. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date,” the DOJ release says.
The FACE Act “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services.”
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The convictions followed several others handed down in August, when pro-life activists Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and John Hinshaw were all found guilty of the same violations.
Last December, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, speaking at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary, lamented the overturning of Roe v. Wade describing it as a “devastating blow to women throughout the country,” and said that the DOJ’s urgent work includes “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”
GOP Moves to repeal FACE Act
Following the latest convictions, on Sept. 19, Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy tabled a bill aimed at repealing the FACE Act.
Speaking with The Daily Signal, Roy said, “Free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs. Yet Biden’s Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life.”
“Our Constitution separates power between the federal government and the states for a reason, and we ignore that safeguard to our own peril,” he said, adding that “The FACE act is an unconstitutional federal takeover of state police powers; it must be repealed.”
Roy’s bill is cosponsored by a number of other Republican representatives, including New Jersey’s Chris Smith, Virginia’s Bob Good, Georgia’s Andrew Clyde, Florida’s Anna Paulina and Colorado’s Doug Lamborn.
The FACE act is intended to protect both abortion clinics and pro-life pregnancy centers, but to date has been primarily used to prosecute pro-life activists.
Andrew Bath, a general counsel with the Thomas More Society, which represents some of the activists told The Daily Signal that this “egregious abuse of government power must stop,”
“The FACE act has been weaponized by this administration. Even if enforced honestly, the FACE act is unconstitutional. If our constitutional system of separation of powers and the ideal of citizen self-government are to be preserved, the FACE Act must be repealed.”
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The FACE Act
The FACE Act has been law in the United States for nearly three decades. It was first signed into law by the Clinton administration in May 1994.
It was enacted due to an increase in crimes committed against abortion providers between 1978 and 1993, including the murder of Dr. David Gunn on March 10, 1993.
It was originally introduced in January 1993, and was sponsored by Representative Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Republican Constance Morella was the chief co-sponsor.
The bill was passed by the House by a voice vote and passed in the Senate 69-30, and at the time was supported by 17 Republicans.
The law was barely used in 2020 and 2021, but prosecutions under the act have recently spiked following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, prompting pro-life groups and their supporters to argue that the DOJ and Biden administration are biased against them.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, told Fox News in October last year that “[I]f you are a conservative, if you are a person of faith, then you are going to get targeted by this administration.”
“The Biden administration’s bias is clear. Dozens of churches and pregnancy centers were vandalized and threatened this summer, yet the DOJ is busy perp-walking pro-life grandmothers,” Katie Glenn, state policy director for Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, told Fox News at the time.
She added that “this outrageous abuse of prosecutorial discretion must end. The FACE Act should not be used as a weapon wielded against the administration’s perceived political enemies. The American people deserve answers and thorough oversight next Congress.”
Over 100 violent attacks against pro-life individuals have been logged in recent years, many attributed to Jane’s Revenge, a group lawmakers are calling to be designated a terrorist organization. To date, no one from the loosely organized group has faced any repercussions under the FACE Act.
Herb Geraghty, who was indicted for allegedly blocking access to a Washington D.C. clinic in October, 2020, told Fox News that the Biden administration has a ”pro-abortion agenda.”
“We know that the Biden administration has a legislative pro-abortion agenda and a judicial pro-abortion agenda, and I think many people are suspecting that there’s also now this prosecutorial agenda to hand over as many pro-life activists and leaders heads on a platter to the abortion industry,” he said, adding that “to me, it seems that this is retaliation for Dobbs.”