DOJ ramps up charges against pro-life activists: 4 last year, 26 this year
The Justice Department has ramped up prosecutions of pro-life activists in the months following the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, under a law that was barely used in 2020 and 2021 but has now been used to indict 26 people this year.
In the last four weeks alone, the Justice Department has indicted 14 people under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act. That Clinton-era law makes it a federal crime to use or threaten to use force to “injure, intimidate, or interfere” with anyone seeking either abortion services or pro-life pregnancy counseling services.
Each of those 14 indictments were against pro-life demonstrators, and all of the 26 FACE Act indictments this year have been against pro-lifers. These alleged FACE Act incidents, for which the DOJ is now pressing charges, occurred at least one year ago and carry potential jail time of up to 11 years and over $200,000 in fines.
In contrast, only four FACE Act indictments took place in 2021, according to the DOJ.
The sudden uptick in FACE Act charges follows the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion access. In response to the Dobbs opinion, the DOJ launched a reproductive rights task force, which the department says was formed to “identify ways to protect access to reproductive health care.”
While the DOJ has been prosecuting alleged FACE Act violations by pro-life activists, the Supreme Court decision has also led to dozens of violent incidents at pro-life pregnancy centers staged by pro-choice demonstrators. For example, the radical abortion rights group Jane’s Revenge has claimed credit for vandalizing or firebombing at least 18 of these pro-life clinics.
But the FBI has made no arrests related to these incidents, and so far, no FACE Act charges have been brought against anyone involved in these attacks.
Pro-life groups and their supporters have argued that the DOJ is biased against them. “[I]f you are a conservative, if you are a person of faith, then you are going to get targeted by this administration,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in reference to the DOJ’s actions related to abortion rights.
“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 Digital.
“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,” she continued.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, which is responsible for enforcing the FACE Act, is led by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. In a 2018 tweet, Clarke called pro-life pregnancy centers “fake clinics.”
The Justice Department has come under fire by several GOP members of Congress in reaction to this uptick in FACE prosecutions, and particularly the FBI’s handling of the arrest of pro-life activist Mark Houck. He claimed as many as 20 FBI agents “wearing armor plated tactical vests, ballistic helmets and holding ballistic shields and long guns” arrested him at his home.
On Sept. 27, Houck pleaded not guilty to FACE Act charges in relation to an incident in which he pushed an abortion clinic worker who allegedly yelled profanities at his 11-year-old son.
The DOJ’s most recent indictment under the FACE Act was announced last week, when the department indicted 25-year-old Herb Geraghty for allegedly blocking access to a clinic in Washington, D.C., in October 2020.
Geraghty is a pro-life atheist who runs a secular non-profit opposing things like abortion, capital punishment and police brutality. He accused the Biden administration of having 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. “To me, it seems that this is retaliation for Dobbs.”
The original version of this story counted 23 FACE Act indictments this year and one indictment last year, based on publicly available information. The new figure reflects input from the Justice Department.