Republicans Urge Repeal of ‘Weaponized’ FACE Act Due to Anti-Pro-Life Bias

Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy and 25 House Republicans introduced a resolution Tuesday.

An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion business on Oct. 13, 2021.
An FBI agent stands outside the Houck residence in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 23, 2022. Mark Houck was arrested that day and charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood escort outside an Philadelphia abortion business on Oct. 13, 2021. (photo: Courtesy of the Houck family)

Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy and 25 House Republicans introduced a resolution Tuesday to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that has been used extensively by the Biden administration to penalize pro-life activists.

Passed in 1994, the FACE Act imposes criminal penalties on individuals convicted of “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct” that interferes with access to abortion facilities, places of worship, and pregnancy centers.

The resolution introduced by Roy in the House and sponsored by Utah Sen. Mike Lee in the Senate would repeal the FACE Act on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional use of federal power and that it has been weaponized against people of certain religious and political beliefs.

In a Monday press release, Roy said that “free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs. Yet, Biden's Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life.” 

 “Our Constitution separates power between the federal government and the states for a reason, and we ignore that safeguard at our own peril,” Roy went on. “The FACE Act is an unconstitutional federal takeover of state police powers; it must be repealed.”

Roy also led an unsuccessful effort to prohibit taxpayer funding from being used to enforce the FACE Act in April. 

How has the FACE Act been used?

Though churches and pregnancy centers are included in the FACE Act, in the last year only four people have been charged for attacks on churches and pregnancy centers, despite 100-plus attacks.

During Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Roy questioned Biden Administration Attorney General Merrick Garland about bias in the FACE Act’s application.

“Are you concerned that enforcement of the FACE Act has been biased towards pro-lifers over anti-life protesters 126 to 4?” Roy asked Garland. “126 times against pro-lifers versus four times.”  

Most recently, three pro-life activists — Joan Bell, 74, Jean Marshall, 73, and Jonathan Darnel, 41 — were found guilty on Sept. 15 of felonies related to the FACE Act that could land them up to 11 years in prison and fines as much as $350,000.

The Biden Department of Justice alleged that the three activists engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade of an abortion business in an October 2022 protest in Washington D.C.  

Another eight pro-life activists in Michigan were charged with FACE Act violations in February. 

The most notable FACE Act charge was made against Mark Houck, a Pennsylvania father of seven, who made national headlines when he was arrested by armed authorities at his home on Sept. 23, 2022. Houck was eventually cleared of all charges in January. 

New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, a co-sponsor, said in a press release Tuesday that “the FACE Act prescribes harsh, mean-spirited punishments when pro-life individuals engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience — the staple of the human rights and civil rights movements.”

“Under the FACE Act, peaceful actions like holding a sign, singing a hymn, or praying the Rosary, if conducted near an abortion mill, can result in jail sentences, massive fines, and punitive damages by the party that feels it has been offended,” he said. 

“The Biden Administration has weaponized the FACE Act, singling out nonviolent pro-life advocates and punishing them as felons,” Smith continued. “At the same time, there has been no documented arrest in over 80 instances of violent attacks, firebombing, and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate front-line volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls.”

Washington Surgi-Clinic on F St. NW in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2022.

Pro-Lifers Imprisoned Under FACE Act Speak Out

Joan Andrews Bell, a 76-year-old Catholic, who was sentenced to two years and three months in prison, shared a statement in which she vowed to continue advocating for the unborn and called on others to join her in prayer.

FBI building in Washington, D.C.

Four More Pro-Life Activists Convicted Under FACE Act

The four activists — Eva Edl, 87; Eva Zastro, 24; James Zastro, 25; and Paul Place, 24 — were convicted of FACE Act violations in federal court on Tuesday for a protest held at a Tennessee abortion clinic in March 2021.

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