The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted more pro-life activists for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a charge that carries up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines.
The DOJ announced on Wednesday that eight people – Calvin Zastrow, Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Caroline Davis, Joel Curry, Justin Phillips, Eva Edl and Eva Zastrow – are accused of “engaging in a civil rights conspiracy” and violating the FACE Act in connection with an August 2020 blockade of an abortion clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Idoni and Edl are facing additional charges for allegedly violating the FACE Act in connection with an April 2021 blockade of an abortion clinic in Saginaw, Michigan.
The FACE Act outlaws “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
Eight Defendants Indicted in Michigan for Obstructing a Reproductive Health Services Facility: The Justice Department announced an indictment charging eight people with federal civil rights offenses and violations of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance… https://t.co/PYhAkQhgBI
— FBI Detroit (@FBIDetroit) February 23, 2023
Local news outlets reported that the allegations stem from an incident at the Northland Family Planning Clinic.According to The Detroit News:
Authorities said Gallagher promoted a planned blockade at the clinic over social media. They claim he and the other seven members of the group gathered at a location near the clinic just before it opened and then walked to the facility. They sat and stood in front of the clinic’s main entrance and blocked the doors.
Curry and Gallagher allegedly recorded the demonstration with their phones and live streamed the event to social media, according to the report. Prosecutors said the group would not let a woman into the clinic “even after she told them she had an appointment to get birth control.” Zastrow also allegedly “sat in front of the door and prevented” clinic employees and the facility’s owner from entering.
The report continues:
The group prevented another patient from entering the clinic, federal prosecutors said, and Sterling Heights police officers were called. Police directed the group to move, but they refused and instead engaged them in conversation as an alleged delay tactic.
“The longer they talk with us, the better the opportunity we have to see women and children rescued,” Gallagher said, according to the complaint. “And that’s what obstructing the door of an abortion clinic is about and why it’s so successful. We are here blocking access so the doors can’t open.”
The FBI Detroit Field Office and Bay City Resident Agency investigated the case, and the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.
The FACE Act can also be used to prosecute attacks against pro-life pregnancy centers. But even though — by FBI Director Christopher Wray’s own admission — pro-life organizations have accounted for roughly 70 percent of abortion-related attacks since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has only indicted two pro-abortion extremists out of at least 81 estimated attacks against pro-life groups (not including churches). In stark contrast, the DOJ has prosecuted over 30 pro-life protesters over the last year.
Conservative activists and Republican lawmakers have accused the agencies of unevenly doling out justice, but Wray has insisted that the agency is not politically motivated. Wray said in November:
We don’t have the time for me to tell how frustrated I sometimes get by some of the news reporting about our work and the misreporting of our work. The circumspection that we display with regard to discussing our investigations is based on rules and practices that are important to people having confidence in the integrity of our work and go back decades, multiple administrations.
Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, told Fox News Digital in a statement that the indictment announcement “further confirms that this Administration will spare no expense or resource when it comes to hunting down pro-life Americans.”
“The shame is that they have no interest in equally pursuing pro-abortion domestic criminals that have vandalized and desecrated hundreds of churches and pregnancy care centers,” Burch continued. “The Department of Justice should not play favorites when enforcing the law, yet that seems to be the new policy.”