Republicans Renew Call to Repeal FACE Act After Pro-Lifers Found Guilty

2024-02-01 16:35:06

Republican lawmakers have renewed their call to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act after six pro-life activists were found guilty this week for “conspiracy against rights” and violating the FACE Act in relation to a peaceful protest outside of a Tennessee abortion facility in 2021.

The FACE Act “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services,” while conspiracy against rights — a charge that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence — “makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the United States in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States or because of his or her having exercised such a right,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

The six activists, including a Christian father of 11 and a 73-year-old man, could face up to 11 years in prison. 

“A pro-life family is getting the book thrown at them over a peaceful protest because Biden’s weaponized DOJ using a federal law that shouldn’t be on the books,” Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-TX) Press Office tweeted in response to news of the guilty verdict. “Rep. Roy’s FACE Act Repeal Act (H.R. 5577) would END this easily-abused law once and for all.”

Roy introduced the FACE Act Repeal Act in September of 2023, after eight other pro-life activists, who are still in jail, were found guilty of violating the FACE Act and conspiracy against rights for their role in an abortion clinic blockade that took place in Washington, DC, in October 2020. They could also face up to 11 years in prison.

“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,” Roy said in a statement at the time. “Our Constitution separates power between the federal government and the states for a reason, and we ignore that safeguard at our own peril. The FACE Act is an unconstitutional federal takeover of state police powers; it must be repealed.”

Roy’s office also noted at the time how the FACE Act made national news after pro-life activist Mark Houck was allegedly held at gunpoint and arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last year in front of his wife and children, citing the FACE Act in relation to a pushing incident outside of an abortion facility. Houck was found not guilty, with the judge in the case asking the prosecution whether the FACE Act did not “seem to be stretched a little thin here.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is leading companion legislation in the Senate.

“The Constitution reserves general police power to the states, which Congress infringed upon when it passed the FACE Act,” Lee said in September. “Joe Biden’s DOJ has weaponized this constitutionally dubious law against pro-life sidewalk counselors while failing to protect pregnancy centers and churches from arson, vandalism, and violence. It’s time to repeal the FACE Act once and for all.”

Lee also renewed calls to repeal the FACE Act on Tuesday, accusing the DOJ of seemingly using it “to punish pro-life protesters but not their pro-abortion counterparts.”

“The FACE Act criminalizes an odd assortment of offenses, including blocking access to and vandalizing (1) abortion clinics, (2) places of worship, and (3) pregnancy centers,” Lee wrote in a Twitter thread. “How many prosecutions has Team Biden brought in the second category? Zero. Not even one.”

“The Biden DOJ has enforced the FACE Act a few times in the second category (pregnancy centers). But cases involving pregnancy centers—which provide pregnant women with free counseling about non-abortion alternatives—remain infrequent relative to criminal acts against them,” he continued. “… The DOJ seems to obsess over abortion access when enforcing the FACE Act, while ignoring that law’s protections for pro-life and religious institutions—even as crimes against such institutions have skyrocketed.”

He added that as a member of the Judiciary Committee, he has yet to receive answers from Attorney General Merrick Garland about stats related to the DOJ’s enforcement of the FACE Act. 

“The FACE Act, it seems, is being used by DOJ to punish pro-life protesters but not their pro-abortion counterparts,” he continued. 

“In enacting the FACE Act, moreover, Congress relied on now difficult-to-defend readings of both the Commerce Clause and the Fourteen Amendment. I suspect most of the Republicans who voted for the FACE Act in 1994 would’ve voted differently had they anticipated the one-sided manner in which it would be enforced by DOJ,” he added.

The thread continued:

All of this should beg the question: is the FACE Act sufficiently well written, fairly administered, and clearly appropriate as an exercise of federal lawmaking authority? I believe the answer to that question is “no”—on all three points.

For that reason, I’ve teamed up with @chiproytx to introduce the Restoring the First Amendment and Right to Civil Disobedience Act – S. 3017/H.R. 5577. My Senate cosponsors include Senators @cindyhydesmith, @RogerWicker, @JDVance1, @SenatorBraun, and @HawleyMO. Let’s add more!

Bottom line: the Biden administration incarcerates people for praying at abortion clinics while ignoring violent acts at churches and pregnancy centers. So many camels. So much obsessive attention paid to harmless things mistaken for gnats.

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has notably charged more pro-life activists under the FACE Act than pro-abortion activists, even though FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted in November 2022 that approximately 70 percent of abortion-related threats of violence in the United States since the Dobbs decision have been against pro-life groups.

In December 2022, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also admitted in remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary that the end of Roe v. Wade dialed up “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work, including the “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”

Out of dozens of attacks on pregnancy centers since the Dobbs leak, only a handful of pro-abortion activists have been arrested, including in FloridaNew York, and Ohio.

When questioned by Republicans in March of 2023 about the apparent enforcement discrepancy, Merrick Garland claimed more pro-life activists have been prosecuted because they commit crimes “during the daylight,” while pro-abortion activists tend to strike at night.

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.



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