Mother’s Day Pro-Abortion Protests Set to Interrupt Masses Are Illegal. Will President Biden Stop Them?

Pro-abortion groups have targeted Catholic churches to protest the impending Dobbs decision.

A video calling for Mother's Day protests in churches posted by Ruth Sent Us on TikTok shows a previous disruption of Mass.
A video calling for Mother's Day protests in churches posted by Ruth Sent Us on TikTok shows a previous disruption of Mass. (photo: TikTok screenshot of @ruthsent video)

In churches across the country this Sunday, Catholics will be celebrating their mothers, grandmothers and Our Lady. We will also be offering prayers of gratitude for the impending overturning of Roe v. Wade. But a sinister threat to these peaceful church gatherings is in the works. Will President Biden — who will be attending Mass himself — step in and order his administration to protect our right to worship?

I’m doubtful.

Some background: Several pro-abortion groups are calling for demonstrations at Catholic churches across the country this Sunday. They are demonstrating in protest at the leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that would strike down Roe v. Wade. Kicking off a “week of action,” the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights wants its followers to undertake “actions outside of churches” on Sunday. Another radical group, Ruth Sent Us, named after the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wants its followers to “stand at or in a local Catholic church” on Sunday. “Whether you’re a ‘Catholic for Choice,’ ex-Catholic, of other or no faith, recognize that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe,” the group tweeted. 

That this Sunday is Mother’s Day seems utterly lost on these folks. “Stand at or in a local Catholic Church Sun May 8. #WarOnWomen #MothersDayStrike,” “Motherhood should be a choice, not forced by the church or the state,” and “Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement!” are some of their tone-deaf “get-the-word-out” tweets for this Sunday’s disruptions. The group also shared a video of their members appearing to interrupt a service while dressed as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale

Targeting private citizens at their houses of worship in this way is obviously intimidating. But what’s less well known is that it’s also illegal. Such radical protests are likely to violate a federal civil-rights law that has been relentlessly employed by pro-abortion administrations for decades against anti-abortion protesters. 

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) of 1994 prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services or to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship. FACE also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services or a place of religious worship. Of course, Congress provided that nothing in the statute shall be construed to “prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibition by the First Amendment.” There is nothing peaceful, however, about the intentional disruption of the Mass. 

FACE authorizes the attorney general to seek injunctive relief, statutory or compensatory damages, and civil penalties against individuals who engage in conduct that violates the act. 

I worked in the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, the section charged with enforcing FACE and other civil-rights laws, in the late 1990s. Needless to say, I asked not to be assigned any FACE cases. 

Since President Bill Clinton signed FACE into law, pro-abortion administrations have obtained temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions, won orders of civil contempt for violations of these injunctions, imposed civil fines, and in one case even secured criminal contempt against an abortion protester. No investigations have been brought based on protests that targeted houses of worship — perhaps because places of worship haven’t been targeted in such a concerted fashion. Until now. 

The leak of the draft Dobbs opinion has triggered a response among radical groups that borders on the demonic. Take, for example, the disgusting targeting of the six conservative justices on the Supreme Court — five of whom are Catholic. Ruth Sent Us, one of the groups planning the Mother’s Day demonstrations, collaborated with Vigil for Democracy to generate and post a Google Maps graphic pinning what it claims are their home addresses. When asked about planned protests at the private residences of the Court’s six conservative justices, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki not only refused to condemn them, but added: “The president, for all those women, men, others who feel outraged, who feel scared, who feel concerned, he hears them, he shares that concern and that horror that he saw in that draft opinion.”

There is something profoundly disturbing about a Catholic president expressing horror at a ruling that potentially saves unborn lives. But, whatever his personal view, he has a duty to uphold the law. Catholic Vote has rightly demanded that “Attorney General Merrick Garland must make clear that acting on these plans would violate the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The AG has an obligation to alert every U.S. attorney across the country and remind them of the law and their duty to enforce it.” But, given how relentlessly the Biden administration has sided with abortion extremists to date, Catholics shouldn’t hold our breath.