Six Pro-Life Activists Found Guilty, Face 11 Years in Prison for Peaceful Protest

Six pro-life activists were found guilty on Tuesday for “conspiracy against rights” and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) in relation to a peaceful protest outside of a Tennessee abortion facility in 2021.

President Joe Biden’s pro-abortion administration announced in October 2022 that it had charged 11 activists involved in the March 5, 2021, “blockade” of the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mount Juliet. Attorneys for the activists said they were conducting a “rescue” and had gathered on the second floor of the office building where the clinic is located to pray, sing hymns, and urge women not to go through with abortions. The peaceful protest was also live-streamed on Facebook, according to the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Six of the activists have now been found guilty of a misdemeanor FACE Act charge, as well as a felony conspiracy against rights charge, which carries with it the possibility of up to 11 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. They include: Chester Gallagher, 73, of Lebanon, Tennessee; Heather Idoni, 58, of Michigan; Calvin Zastrow, 57, of Michigan; Coleman Boyd, 51, of Bolton, Mississippi; Dennis Green, 56, of Cumberland, Virginia; and Paul Vaughn, 55, of Centerville, Tennessee.

Four other activists who have not gone to trial yet were only charged with a FACE Act violation and face up to one year in prison and fines up to $10,000. They include: Eva Edl, 87, of Aiken South Carolina; Eva Zastro, 24, of Dover, Arkansas; James Zastro, 25, of Eldon, Missouri; and Paul Place, 24, of Centerville, Tennessee.

Another activist, 24-year-old Caroline Davis of Michigan, already took a plea deal in 2023 and agreed to testify for the government.

The six activists are expected to be sentenced in July, the Daily Wire reported. The guilty verdict was delivered on the sixth day of the trial at the Fred D. Thompson courthouse in Nashville, according to attorneys for Paul Vaughn. The case was overseen by Judge Aleta Trauger, an appointee of former president Bill Clinton. 

Thomas More Society attorneys for Vaughn, a Christian father of 11 children, said in a press release that they will appeal his guilty verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome,” stated Steve Crampton, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel and attorney for Paul Vaughn. “This was a peaceful demonstration by entirely peaceable citizens—filled with prayer, hymn-singing, and worship—oriented toward persuading expecting mothers not to abort their babies. Unfortunately, the Biden Department of Justice decided to characterize Paul Vaughn’s peaceful actions as a felony ‘conspiracy against rights,’ to intimidate and punish Paul and other pro-life people and people of faith.”

 “The Biden Department of Justice’s pattern of arresting and prosecuting peaceful pro-life advocates is disturbing,” Crampton added, noting criticism of the FBI’s alleged targeting of pro-life activists, despite the flood of attacks on pro-life centers and churches by pro-abortion activists following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

According to the Thomas Moore Society, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Davis, who participated in the protest and was arrested with the other activists, but later agreed to help the government. The government also presented a woman who had scheduled an abortion for that day, but said she left because of the protesters. The government additionally presented a clinic employee who claimed they were trapped inside the building during the protest, although the Thomas Moore Society argued that video of the incident shows traffic clearly passing to and from the abortion clinic during the protest. 

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has notably charged more pro-life activists under the FACE Act than pro-abortion activists, despite the fact that FBI director Christopher Wray admitted in November of 2022 that approximately 70 percent of abortion-related threats of violence in the United States since the Dobbs decision have been against pro-life groups.

In December of 2022, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also admitted in remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary that the end of Roe v. Wade dialed up “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work, including the “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”

The Biden administration’s pursuit of pro-life activists has resulted in several high-profile cases, including that of Catholic father of seven Mark Houck, who was found not guilty of federal assault charges brought by President Joe Biden’s DOJ. The DOJ had decided to press charges against Houck, even though local authorities declined to press charges.

There are also several pro-life activists sitting in jail awaiting sentencing, including two women over the age of 70, who were similarly found guilty of conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act for an abortion clinic blockade that took place in Washington, DC, in October 2020. They also face up to 11 years in prison.

In response to these incidents, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced legislation in September of 2023 to repeal the FACE Act, which “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services.” Roy said that while the law was designed to protect abortion facilities, it has instead been weaponized by President Joe Biden’s DOJ to target pro-life activists.

Former President Donald Trump also pledged last year to create a task force, if reelected, to review and potentially pardon or commute the sentences of every “political prisoner who’s been unjustly persecuted by the Biden administration.”

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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