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Pro-life activists protest the incarceration of nine pro-life activists charged with FACE Act violations at the national March for Life on Jan. 19, 2024. Pro-life activists protest the incarceration of nine pro-life activists charged with FACE Act violations at the national March for Life on Jan. 19, 2024. Lisa Bourne

Six pro-life activists convicted of federal FACE Act charges, face over a decade in prison

The defendants had been charged with a blockade that occurred at the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, in 2021.

(NCR) Half a dozen pro-life activists on Tuesday were found guilty of violating a federal law that forbids protesters from blocking the entrances to abortion clinics. 

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release that the six defendants in the Nashville, Tennessee, federal trial were “each convicted of a felony conspiracy against rights and a Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act offense.”

The federal FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. 

The defendants had been charged with a blockade that occurred at the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, in 2021. 

The government said in its press release this week that the defendants — Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Paul Vaughn, and Dennis Green — had “engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the clinic employees from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.”

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The defendants will be sentenced on July 2. They “each face up to a maximum of 10 and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $260,000,” the Department of Justice said. 

Steve Crampton, a lawyer with the Thomas More Society and an attorney for Paul Vaughn, said in a press release afterward that the group was “of course, disappointed with the outcome.”

“This was a peaceful demonstration by entirely peaceable citizens — filled with prayer, hymn-singing, and worship — oriented toward persuading expecting mothers not to abort their babies,” Crampton said.

“Unfortunately, the Biden Department of Justice decided to characterize Paul Vaughn’s peaceful actions as a felony ‘conspiracy against rights,’ to intimidate and punish Paul and other pro-life people and people of faith.”

Tweet This: The Biden DOJ characterized Paul Vaughn’s peaceful actions as a felony to intimidate him and other pro-lifers and people people of faith.

The Thomas More Society is “expected to announce that they will appeal the conviction” of Vaughn, the press release said.

The government said in October 2022 that it had charged a total of 11 individuals in connection with the incident. Additional defendants were hit with similar charges under the FACE Act without the “conspiracy against rights” charges.

The blockade for which the defendants were convicted was documented in a March 5, 2021, video posted on Facebook. The footage showed a large group of pro-life activists ranging from elderly to young children walking into an abortion clinic and blocking access to the door by sitting in front of it. The video showed the pro-life activists singing Christian hymns and praying. Police can be seen demanding they leave the clinic.

In August of last year, five other pro-life advocates who entered a Washington, D.C., abortion facility as part of a “rescue” in October 2020 were also convicted under the FACE Act

More than two dozen House Republicans in September introduced a resolution to repeal the FACE Act. Texas Rep. Chip Roy argued at the time that American citizens “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,” he argued. 

In recent years perhaps the most notable FACE Act charge was made against Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania father of seven who made national headlines when he was arrested by armed authorities at his home on Sept. 23, 2022. 

Houck was eventually cleared of all charges.

Editor's note: This article is reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register – www.ncregister.com.

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