Biden Admin Promises to Continue Prosecuting Pro-Life Advocates ‘Creatively and Aggressively’
After engaging in the most rapid prosecution of the pro-life movement in a decade, the Biden administration’s Justice Department promised to continue prosecuting pro-life advocates “creatively and aggressively” and lamented “the devastation wrought by the Dobbs decision.”
The Reproductive Rights Task Force (RRTF) met on Monday to celebrate its record — and promise more of the same. Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration’s DOJ has won 23 of the 24 cases it has prosecuted under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, involving 55 defendants.
This prosecution spree represents a massive uptick in the criminalization of pro-life activity since the Dobbs decision. Biden has prosecuted 24 cases in less than three years. In the 10 years before Biden took office (2011-2021), the Obama and Trump administrations combined prosecuted only 17 FACE Act cases. In June, the Biden administration announced it had prosecuted 18 FACE Act cases against 48 people.
At Biden’s direction, the task force will “continue to work creatively and relentlessly to use all our available tools to protect” abortion, said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. Attorney General Merrick Garland added that Biden’s Department of Justice is “working to ensure that prosecutors across the country are equipped to bring FACE Act cases” — prosecutions he called “important work” — and the DOJ “will not cease its efforts” to keep the abortion pill, mifepristone, legal.
“There is no understating the devastation wrought by the Dobbsdecision,” said Gupta in her opening remarks on Monday. That echoed comments Gupta made last December, declaring that Dobbs “dealt a devastating blow to” the abortion industry, “increasing the urgency of our work, including enforcement of the FACE Act.”
Within the first six months after the Dobbs decision, 32,000 children who would have been aborted were born thanks to state pro-life laws. With the average abortion costing $625, the Dobbs decision cost the abortion industry approximately $20 million in half a year.
Planned Parenthood committed to spend $50 million on the 2022 midterm elections, almost exclusively favoring Democrats.
Gupta added the DOJ is “closely monitoring” any “emergent threats” presented by state laws that protect the unborn. “We remain committed to doing all we can.”
Her remarks outraged pro-life experts. “If Assistant Attorney General Gupta wants to talk about devastation, she should be talking about the more than 60 million babies murdered by abortionists since Roe v. Wade; about the CDC data showing for every two black babies born alive, one is killed by an abortionist; or about the one in three women experiencing severe depression following an abortion,” Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
Calling Dobbs a devastating decision “is a sign that Assistant AG Gupta is a promoter of the culture of death,” Szoch told TWS.
The Biden administration established the RRTF last July, just weeks after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, to take “proactive and defensive legal action” on behalf of the abortion industry. It has since presided over an explosion of prosecutions using the FACE Act, a 1994 law signed by President Bill Clinton targeting Operation Rescue-style blockades of abortion facilities. The law charges a $10,000 fine for a first conviction and up to six months in jail. Each subsequent conviction can add $25,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison for peaceful protests; 10 years if convicted of causing any bodily injury.
Although the law purportedly protects both abortion facilities and pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs), the act has overwhelmingly targeted pro-life advocates. “Out of 130 uses of the FACE Act since 1994, 126 were for pro-abortion activists and in defense of abortion providers, and four have been for pro-life Americans and/or churches,” noted Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.
The DOJ has prosecuted shockingly few pro-abortion activists, although pro-life women’s centers are 22 times more likely to be attacked than abortion facilities.
Roy noted the Biden administration had made this legal imbalance worse, citing FRC data. “According to the Family Research Council, there were 57 pro-abortion acts of hostility against churches” from January to September 2022, “and in the first quarter of 2023 there were 69 incidents of hostility against churches,” said Roy. “In the face of this increase, you would expect the [DOJ’s] Civil Rights division to step up and protect the civil rights of these Americans,” but it did not, he said.
“Even under your watch, it’s at least 35 to one or two,” Roy told Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “That is not even-handed.”
He highlighted the 24th instance of the FACE Act being used by the Biden administration, which involved Mark Houck, a Catholic pro-life advocate in Pennsylvania who says 20 to 30 agents raided his home. A federal jury acquitted Houck of all charges on January 30 after deliberating for roughly one hour.
“Have you apologized to [Mark Houck] on behalf of the DOJ for that grave violation of his civil rights — having his family have to watch him being raided at his home, and then he’s acquitted by a federal jury? Have you apologized to him?” Roy asked Clarke.
“Well, we follow the facts and apply the law. That is our, our job,” Clarke replied.
“The answer to that is no,” said Roy.
Although Clarke claimed she has been “aggressively conducting outreach to all groups so that the public understands that the FACE Act applies to both pro-choice and pro-life groups,” she did not describe any increased prosecutions aimed at protecting PRCs.
Instead, over the last three years, the Biden administration has prosecuted a Catholic monk, Fr. Fidelius Mocinski of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The mendicant monk was convicted of temporarily blocking the entrance to a New York Planned Parenthood and sentenced to six months in another kind of cell. The DOJ brought the monastic to court just as local New Jersey prosecutors dropped charges for conducting “Red Rose Rescues,” in which he enters abortion facilities and gives roses to abortion-minded mothers.
The DOJ also prosecuted 11 pro-life advocates — including an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor, Eva Edl — as part of one FACE Act case. The defendants allegedly blocked the entrance to Carafem Health Center Clinic, an abortion facility in Mount Joliet, Tennessee, on March 5, 2021.
Between August and November, the DOJ convicted nine pro-life advocates associated with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) — five of whom were in their sixties or seventies — of blocking the entrance to the Washington Surgi-Center as they sang “let there be peace” in October 2020. The advocates subsequently found boxes containing the bodies of five viable babies at the same D.C.-based abortion facility last March 25. The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 to $350,000. A 10th co-defendant in his 30s, Jay Smith, received 10 years in prison after entering a guilty plea in March.
Biden’s U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew M. Graves, said the progressive pro-life advocates had to be brought to heel, because “no one is entitled to deprive other people of their civil rights.”
Republicans seem determined to end this selective prosecution, which they call a tool in the weaponization of government. In October, Roy and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Restoring the First Amendment and Right to Peaceful Civil Disobedience Act of 2023 (S. 3017), a one-page bill to repeal the FACE Act. The Senate bill has five co-sponsors: Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). The House companion bill has 24 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
Repealing the FACE Act will not only rein in liberal lawfare against pro-lifers, experts say, but will curtail the administration’s furtherance of a worldview that runs diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Bible. “In Deuteronomy we hear the words, ‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live,’” Szoch told TWS. “Americans must embrace life and turn away from the culture of death.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.