Six more protestors received guilty verdicts this week and face more than 10 years in prison. Prosecutors are using a charge that has prompted a new legal debate.
A growing number of federal prosecutions and convictions of pro-life activists is prompting a new legal debate that their attorneys hope will go to the Supreme Court. This week, six pro-life activists were convicted of federal crimes in Nashville for demonstrating outside a clinic in early 2021.
In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Justice Department increased prosecution of pro-life protestors outside of abortion clinics. Those cases included both peaceful protestors and those who were obstructing clinic entrances, which is a violation of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
More than a dozen protestors have now been convicted of federal crimes in the last year, and face sentences of more than 10 years. Eight more face trial in Michigan in April. Those criminal prosecutions were rare before 2021, with one or two cases annually for the past decade.
The six activists convicted in Tennessee this week argued they demonstrated peacefully, saying they were singing hymns and praying in a medical pavilion hallway outside the clinic. A police officer testified at the trial that the protestors were peaceful, according to The Tennessean, but they refused to leave. They were convicted of “obstructing access to reproductive health services.”
Some activists’ stated goals are to physically block women from having abortions by obstructing entrances, while others hope that their peaceful presence outside a clinic would convince those seeking abortions to make a different choice.
The FACE Act doesn’t clearly distinguish between types of activism outside clinics: It covers those who attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone at a place “providing …