Dozens of abortion mills have been shuttered since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. So far, 15 states have passed laws prohibiting abortionists from murdering children in the womb. As pro-life advocates focus their life-saving efforts at the abortion clinics that remain open, abortionists are more desperate than ever to silence them. Consequently, the federal FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act and its state counterparts are being used to intimidate, bully, and persecute peaceful sidewalk counselors. We’ve seen a drastic rise in the number of FACE lawsuits and prosecutions over the past year.
The FACE Act, enacted in 1994, prohibits using force, threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with access to “reproductive health services.” When the FACE Act was passed, lawmakers testified that “The Act is carefully drafted so as not to prohibit expressive activities that are constitutionally protected, such as peacefully carrying picket signs, making speeches, handing out literature, or praying in front of a clinic.”
The law that expressly provides protection for First Amendment speech and activities is now being wielded as a bludgeon against pro-lifers.
The FACE Act is not limited to governmental prosecutions. In Tennessee, the abortion clinic itself filed a lawsuit against peaceful pro-life advocates, claiming they violated the FACE Act.
Operation Save America (OSA) hosted a week of education and outreach outside the Carafem abortion mill shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs. Pro-life activist AJ Hurley attended the event and was one of the guest speakers. Attendees gathered in front of the facility to pray, worship, and celebrate Carafem’s imminent closure pursuant to Tennessee’s “trigger law,” which prohibited abortion 30 days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
During the outreach event, AJ and members of OSA approached security guards outside the abortion clinic to find out if Carafem was still performing abortions. The pro-lifers had a peaceful conversation with the guards. At no time did the group enter the building or prevent others from accessing the building. After a peaceful conversation with the police about the specific timing of the “trigger law,” the pro-lifers returned to the public sidewalk and continued their constitutionally protected free speech activities.
Not once did the police demand that Hurley or the others cease their activities or tell them they were violating the law. A police report of the incident stated that other patrons entered and exited the building “with no obstruction.”
After the event, Carafem sued Hurley and other members of OSA, falsely claiming that the men trespassed, played loud noise causing a nuisance, physically blocked people from entering and exiting the building, and made threats in violation of the FACE Act. The Biden Administration filed a brief in support of the clinic’s lawsuit, arguing that FACE should be construed “broadly.”
Life Legal attorneys are working with other pro-life attorneys to fight this frivolous lawsuit. The FACE law was passed supposedly to stop violence and obstruction at abortion clinics, not to allow abortion profiteers to bully and silence peaceful pro-life advocates. Life Legal has, and always will, stand for the rights of sidewalk counselors and pro-life advocates across the nation.
Please pray for AJ and for our attorneys as the case proceeds.