Biden Justice Department indicts 8 more pro-life activists for FACE Act violations

Pro-lifers rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021. Pro-lifers rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2021. | Rena Schild via Shutterstock.

The Department of Justice has charged eight pro-life advocates in Michigan with violations against the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also known as the FACE Act. 

The charges come amid a wave of FACE Act charges from the Biden DOJ that have targeted several pro-life activists across the nation, including the recently exonerated sidewalk counselor and Catholic father of seven Mark Houck.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury, alleges that the following individuals violated the FACE Act: Calvin Zastrow of Michigan; Chester Gallagher of Tennessee; Heather Idoni of Michigan; Caroline Davis of Georgia; Joel Curry of Michigan; Justin Phillips of Michigan; Eva Edl of South Carolina; and Eva Zastrow of Michigan, according to the indictment. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, according to a DOJ press release.

The indictment does not state the pro-life activists’ ages. Six of the names listed in the indictment match six of the 11 pro-life activists who were indicted on FACE Act violations in October 2022 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee. Those names are Calvin Zastrow, Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Caroline Davis, Eva Edl, and Eva Zastrow.

In the most recent charges, the eight pro-life advocates are accused of “engaging in a civil rights conspiracy and with violating the FACE Act in connection with an August 2020 blockade of a reproductive health care clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan,” the press release said. 

The indictment says that on Aug. 27, 2020, the eight individuals attempted to “oppress and intimidate patients and employees” at the abortion center, Northland Family Planning Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan. They allegedly created a “blockade” in order to stop the clinic from providing “reproductive health services,” the indictment said.

The blockade consisted of the accused “sitting and standing in front of the doors” of the clinic,” the indictment said. Both Curry and Gallagher filmed the blockade, and Curry livestreamed it to a social media account, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Curry said on the livestream: “We’re in Sterling Heights, outside of the murder mill, to save children. Sitting next to brothers and sisters. Block the door.”

A patient tried to enter the building but Curry told the patient, “We’re not letting anybody in,” the indictment says. 

An employee then tried to let a staff member enter the clinic, but Zastrow moved and sat in front of the employee entrance, according to the indictment. Davis then came out to join Zastrow, the indictment says. Another patient arrived at the clinic for a scheduled appointment but was met with the blockade, the indictment said.

After officers arrived the eight “refused to move and instead engaged the officers in conversation as a delay tactic,” the indictment said.

“The longer they talk with us, the better opportunity we have to see women and children rescued. And that’s what obstructing the door of an abortion clinic is about and why it’s so successful. We are here blocking access so the doors can’t open,” Gallagher allegedly said, according to the indictment. 

Gallagher went to speak with officers but Idoni moved to his spot to fill the blockade, according to the indictment. Officers threatened the eight with arrest, but Edl refused to move, saying, “You can arrest us, you can do whatever you want, but I will be back, wherever there is a clinic open,” according to the indictment.

While all eight pro-life activists were charged with two FACE Act violations, Idoni and Edl were charged with a third violation in connection with an April 2021 blockade of the abortion clinic Women’s Health Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

CNA reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan inquiring about maximum penalties for the eight defendants but did not immediately receive a response by time of publication.

Passed in 1993, the FACE Act was written to also prosecute crimes at pro-life pregnancy facilities and places of worship. Despite its broad areas of protection, it has been used almost exclusively against pro-life activists.

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