The Department of Justice has stepped up efforts to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, and it is working.
How can we tell? It’s about to become the next campaign in the war on reproductive rights.
Passed in 1994 during the Clinton administration, FACE was a direct response to the growing physical threat against reproductive health providers and their patients. The statute specifically prohibits the use of force and threats (including physical obstruction) to injure, intimidate or interfere with, or attempt to do any of those things to interfere with obtaining or providing reproductive health care.
Not only does the FACE Act provide for a means by which the Department of Justice can respond to these threats, it provides an individual private right of action, meaning that targets of violence and violent threats do not have to wait for the government to act.
Prosecuting a FACE Act violation can be tricky stuff because it’s a law targeted at a narrow subset of unprotected speech: incitement of violence making their prosecutions ripe for constitutional review.
And that is exactly what is happening. Angel Dillard not only survived an attempted injunction after suggesting Dr. Mila Means would someday have a bomb planted under her car because it was not a “true threat”, she’s now suing, claiming the lawsuit against her has had “an unlawful chilling effect” on her free speech and religious rights.
That’s right. Preventing terroristic threats — the exact thing the FACE Act was passed to do — is an assault on the First Amendment rights of anti-choice activists. Cue federal court jurisdiction and an organized, coherent attempt to run this issue all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Now consider the constitutional attacks on the FACE Act in conjunction with attempts to legalize the murder of abortion providers as justifiable homicide, first by the Roeder defense and then in Nebraska and Iowa and South Dakota and there’s good cause for alarm. The stakes in this battle have never been higher.
photo courtesy of infowidget via Flickr