A Washington DC jury yesterday convicted five pro-life defendants of violating the federal “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances” (FACE) Act in connection with a peaceful rescue at a DC abortion mill in 2020. The defendants were immediately taken into custody and are currently in jail awaiting sentencing. They face eleven years in federal prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
We are grieved by this miscarriage of justice and discriminatory prosecution of individuals who engaged in courageous, non-violent protest against the most grotesque violence imaginable: the dismemberment of innocent children.
The rescuers were initially cited for trespass after they entered Washington Surgi-Center, which is run by notorious late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo. Those charges were later dismissed. Two years later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained indictments against a total of 11 pro-life individuals for their part in the rescue, alleging that the defendants intentionally blocked access to the clinic.
Santangelo has been captured on video saying he would ensure the death of any child born alive during abortion, which is a violation of federal law. Last year, several pro-lifers sentenced in the DC FACE Act case obtained a box containing the remains of 115 babies aborted at Santangelo’s mill. Some of the babies were nearly full-term and it is believed they were born alive and intentionally killed.
But authorities are not investigating Santangelo. Instead, they conducted a witch hunt to round up pro-lifers who wanted to plead with women not to kill their children.
Shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, President Biden instructed the DOJ to “do everything in their power” to protect the non-existent “right” to abortion. The DOJ responded by creating the “Reproductive Rights Task Force,” which has already prosecuted dozens of individuals on federal FACE Act charges.
The FACE Act prohibits the use of force or physical obstruction to “injure, intimidate, or interfere” with a person’s ability to obtain “reproductive health services.” Videos of the DC rescue show pro-lifers inside the hallway of the medical building that houses the abortion clinic, but not blocking the clinic entrance. One pro-lifer was accused of obstructing access after an abortion worker attacked her with a broom, pushing her to the ground in front of a doorway.
Life Legal is representing a number of pro-life defendants accused of FACE Act violations across the country, including in the Washington DC case. In no case did our clients engage in violence or obstruct the entrance to an abortion mill. But that has not stopped prosecutors from using the FACE Act as a bludgeon to suppress pro-life speech. Life Legal’s affiliate attorney in the DC FACE Act case called yesterday’s verdict “undeserved, unwarranted and legally incorrect.” He is planning to appeal.
The remaining six defendants in the Washington DC case will stand trial beginning September 6, after which all 11 pro-lifers will be sentenced.