In yet another show of force by the federal government against pro-life Americans, the FBI – with guns drawn – raided the home of 73-year-old Chester Gallagher to arrest him on charges of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for organizing and participating in a peaceful protest at a Mount Juliet, Tennessee abortion facility in March 2021.
Gallagher was not home at the time, but his family was, and the FBI demanded to know his whereabouts, according to a report pro-life activist AJ Hurley gave to Live Action News.
The raid follows a federal indictment announced on October 5 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee. Gallagher was among 11 participants in the 2021 “rescue” described in the indictment. The oldest charged is 87-year-old Eva Edl of Aiken, South Carolina. The youngest is 24.
The FACE Act was passed by Congress in 1994 in response to a series of protests at abortion facilities. Its language is more general than simply covering abortion, however. It prohibits physical obstruction, attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with a “facility” because such facility provides “reproductive health services.” The act also includes damage or destruction to a place of religious worship.
And what does “intimidate” or “interfere” mean? Couldn’t those terms be misused to criminalize a whole lot of otherwise innocent behavior?
By its terms, therefore, the FACE Act protects and covers the dozens of pregnancy resource centers and churches that have been vandalized and damaged, including at least two firebombings, since a draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May.
But no one has been arrested yet in any of those incidents, although the FBI has requested the public’s help.
The defendants describe their peaceful protest as involving lining a hallway of a medical building where an abortion facility is located while singing and praying. Local police arrested the group on minor trespassing charges, which have been resolved.
The federal indictment, however, alleges seven of the rescuers conspired together to organize the event, and all of them acted to “block” the abortion facility’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering.
If convicted, the seven charged with “conspiracy” face up to 11 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. The others charged could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
On September 23, the FBI showed up at the home of Mark Houck and arrested him over a sidewalk scuffle with a pro-abortion bully at an abortion facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that occurred over a year ago. He faces similar FACE Act charges for pushing a pro-abortion “escort” away from his 12-year-old son after the escort got in the youngster’s face and began “obscenely ridiculing his father.”
While pro-life advocates, Christians included, should obey the law, there’s a time and place for civil disobedience and protest as well. Especially where the lives of pre-born babies are at stake.
In Houck’s case, the local authorities found nothing to the incident worth charging him over. In the case of the 11 most recently charged, the rescuers accepted responsibility for their action and submitted themselves to the local authorities and courts for trespassing.
In contrast, the aggressive tactics employed by the federal government against these peaceful protestors appear to be way out of proportion to the “offenses” committed. While pregnancy resource centers, churches and pro-life facilities are seemingly attacked at will across the nation without any effective federal response to date, the government’s effort to “throw the book at” these peaceful pro-life supporters is disappointing.
Hopefully, these pro-life defendants will be treated fairly in the federal justice system and acquitted. It also may be time for Congress to do something about the way the FACE Act is being used against peaceful pro-life protestors.
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