Profile: Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act
a.k.a. FACE Act
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was a participant or observer in the following events:
President Clinton signs the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act into law. The law provides for the legal protection of abortion clinics and women’s health clinics against violence perpetuated against them. The law was proposed after an abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn, was shot to death in Florida in 1993 (see March 10, 1993); that same year, 12 arsons, one bombing, and 66 blockades were carried out against abortion clinics. FACE forbids the use of “force, threat of force, or physical obstruction” to prevent someone from providing or receiving reproductive health services. The law also provides for both criminal and civil penalties for those who break the law. [US Department of Justice, 7/25/2008; National Abortion Federation, 2010] The FACE Act works in concert with two Supreme Court decisions, Madsen v. Women’s Health Center and NOW et al v. Scheidler to establish “buffer zones” around women’s clinics and allow anti-abortion organizations to be investigated under federal racketeering statutes. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 40] Signing the FACE Act into law, Clinton says, “We simply cannot—we must not—continue to allow the attacks, the incidents of arson, the campaigns of intimidation upon law-abiding citizens that [have] given rise to this law.” Clinton cites the murder of Gunn and the shooting of Dr. George Tiller (see August 19, 1993) as incidents that FACE is designed to address. He adds: “No person seeking medical care, no physician providing that care should have to endure harassments or threats or obstruction or intimidation or even murder from vigilantes who take the law into their own hands because they think they know what the law ought to be.” [Washington Independent, 6/12/2009] In 2010, the National Abortion Federation will note that while FACE “has had a clear impact on the decline in certain types of violence against clinics and providers, specifically clinic blockades,” violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers has continued. [National Abortion Federation, 2010]
Four doctors and two abortion-provider organizations file a lawsuit under the civil section of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act (see May 1994). The case names the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993) as the primary defendant, and asks that the court enjoin the organization to stop publishing threats against doctors (see 1995 and After). The case also seeks monetary damages. One of the defendants is the Reverend Michael Bray of Bowie, Maryland. Bray, a co-founder of ACLA, wrote a book called A Time to Kill: A Study Concerning the Use of Force and Abortion (see September 1994). Bray served four years in federal prison in the 1980s for his role in the arson attacks and bombings of seven abortion clinics. The case will become commonly known as Planned Parenthood v. ACLA. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]
In an 8-0 decision, the US Supreme Court reverses the findings of earlier courts and finds for the defendants in the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The Court, ruling on technical grounds (see April 22, 2002), determines that it was improper for the National Organization for Women (NOW) to use laws covering racketeering and organized crime against anti-abortion advocates who committed violence against women’s clinics. The Court also notes that Congress’s 1994 passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE—see May 1994) Act indicated that Congress did not view the law as pertaining to this area. [FindLaw, 2/28/2006; Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2006]
Journalist Daphne Eviatar writes that during the eight years of the Bush presidency, prosecutions and enforcement of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE—see May 1994) “cratered,” with Justice Department officials refusing to prosecute or sometimes even investigate complaints of vandalism, harassment, and assault. After the recent murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009), Eviatar and the Washington Independent obtained government data showing that enforcement of the FACE law, and other federal laws designed to protect abortion providers and clinics, declined by 75 percent during the Bush presidency. Between 1994 and 1999, when President Clinton was in office, the Justice Department filed 17 complaints under the FACE Act. Between 2001 and 2009, when President Bush was in office, the Justice Department only filed a single case. Tiller’s own clinic was vandalized numerous times, but complaints against the actions were ignored by the department. Statistics provided by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) show that over 3,200 acts of violence against abortion providers in the US and Canada were committed between 2000 and 2008, and the organization says the number of actual incidents was probably “much higher.” The number does not include threats, vandalism, and harassment. NAF statistics show that at least 17 cases of “extreme” violence against abortion providers in the US were reported, including arson, stabbings, bombings, and fake anthrax mailings. But the Bush Justice Department only prosecuted 11 individuals for these attacks. The two highest-profile anti-abortion prosecutions were those of anthrax mailer Clayton Waagner (see 1997-December 2001) and bomber Eric Rudolph (see April 14, 2005). However, none of Waagner’s or Rudolph’s associates in the extremist organization Army of God (see 1982) were ever prosecuted as accessories to the two activists’ crimes. Neither was the Army of God ever investigated as a potential domestic terrorist organization (see Early 1980s). [Washington Independent, 6/12/2009]
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