National Partnership for Women & Families

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DOJ Using FACE Act To Take 'Harder Line' Against Antiabortion-Rights Activists

Since January 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed six lawsuits -- mostly seeking injunctions and fines -- under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal records, the AP/Fort Wayne News-Sentinel reports. The FACE Act, signed into law by President Clinton, was written to protect people who seek or provide abortion care, and to curb the actions of those who attempt to restrict women's access to abortion clinics.

The Obama administration's use of the law contrasts sharply with its infrequent use during the administration of George W. Bush. In Bush's eight years in office, only one FACE Act lawsuit was filed, compared with six filed by the Obama administration in two years. Under the Clinton administration, 17 such lawsuits were filed. According to AP/News-Sentinel, DOJ adopted "a harder line" against antiabortion-rights activists after the 2009 murder of abortion provider George Tiller. Barry Grissom, the U.S. attorney for Kansas, said that Tiller's murder "brought home to many of us the terrible potential for violence and the need to use every legal means at our disposal to prevent it."

Under the Obama administration, DOJ has filed federal lawsuits against a woman who blocked a car at a Florida clinic, a man who used his body to block the door at a Texas clinic, a Pennsylvania man who posted names and addresses of providers online and urged people to kill them and a Kansas woman who sent threatening letter to a doctor.

Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for DOJ's civil rights division, has said it is of the "utmost importance" to protect abortion providers so they can do their jobs. Perez also said that DOJ "will continue to aggressively enforce the FACE Act against those who seek to violate the rights of their fellow Americans to safely provide or obtain such services" (Hegeman, AP/Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, 5/4).