FACE Act’s shady history casts shadow over ongoing D.C. trial of pro-lifers

pro-life, Lauren Handy

Jury deliberation has begun in the Biden administration’s prosecution of multiple pro-life activists involved in a 2020 rescue at Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, D.C. While the outcome of the case remains unclear, what is clear is that the case illustrates the administration’s zealously pro-abortion agenda.

As nonviolent rescuers face a potential 11 years in prison, it’s worth examining how this law is being applied against the pro-life movement. 

The FACE Act was passed in 1994 and saw multiple prosecutions when Biden was vice president. It appears that after he entered office for a second time, the law’s application saw a resurgence as part of the administration’s post-Roe blitz. Just after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement committing to using the FACE Act to protect abortion. Shortly thereafter, his department launched a “Reproductive Rights Task Force” with an announcement that cited FACE. 

By June of 2023, the department reported that it had brought 18 cases involving alleged criminal FACE Act violations. Some of these – like the ongoing case in D.C. – entailed nonviolent action. Another example of this was Fr. Fidelis Moscinski’s decision to block the entrance to a New York Planned Parenthood. Others involved things like threats, vandalism, and arson of abortion facilities. Despite the massive wave of violence and political vitriol against pro-life pregnancy centers, only one of the cases DOJ touted involved that type of organization.

It’s unclear how the jury will decide the ongoing case in D.C. but in at least one instance, the jury served as a backstop to DOJ’s unjust prosecution of a pro-lifer. As Live Action News noted, a jury acquitted Mark Houck after the FBI raided his family’s home. Houck’s case has been cited by many as an example of the Biden administration abusing the Clinton-era FACE Act and weaponizing his DOJ. 

Earlier this year, several House Republicans requested Congress defund enforcement of FACE and suggested the Biden administration wasn’t trustworthy. 

“The Biden Administration has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to faithfully implement and enforce the FACE Act, as written by Congress,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and 11 other House Republicans.

“Until such a time,” they continued, “Congress ought to withhold the use of the funds for enforcing this law and seriously consider repealing the statute in its entirety.” Among the signatories were Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), and others. 

As Lauren Handy, one of the D.C. defendants, has indicated, it’s questionable how relevant FACE is in a world where the Supreme Court has struck down Roe. Never mind the fact that it hinders potentially life-saving actions from nonviolent activists.

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