Time to FACE Facts About DOJ’s Abusive Abortion Prosecutions
The Free Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act is being used to silence abortion foes.
February 23, 2012 - 12:00 am
Evidence that the Holder Justice Department is driven by left-wing ideology, not objective law enforcement considerations, keeps piling up. Just ask the federal court in Florida that recently dismissed another abusive prosecution filed by the zealots who populate the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Last year, a federal judge in Kansas also refused to grant DOJ’s request for an injunction against another pro-life activist. Not only do the charges filed against peaceful pro-life activists by a politicized Justice Department reek of ideological pugnacity, they do not stand up to legal scrutiny.
These cases were filed under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which forbids physical obstruction, intimidation, or the use or threat of force outside of abortion clinics. But the statute specifically protects the right of “expressive conduct,” including peaceful demonstrations. The judge in the Florida case noted the shocking absence of any evidentiary grounds for the prosecution, or even the applicability of the FACE Act, exposing the bald partisanship of this Justice Department.
The case involved Mary Susan Pine, a woman who for more than 20 years has engaged in peaceful sidewalk counseling for women seeking abortions in West Palm Beach. While engaging in this ministry, Ms. Pine was notified by police that she had violated city and state traffic laws on one particular day. DOJ officials decided that Pine had run afoul of the FACE Act and brought charges against her.
Judge Kenneth Ryskamp was left to wonder at the near-total lack of evidence offered by the prosecution. The government was unable to show that Pine had in fact violated any provision of the FACE Act; prosecutors had no evidence that she had injured, intimidated, or interfered with the people she spoke to on a public sidewalk. It was not even clear that the people she was talking to were entering the abortion clinic.
In fact, as a routine business practice, the abortion clinic keeps a video surveillance record of its driveways and entrances. Those videotapes would have shown whether Pine was actually interfering with or obstructing any customers, but the clinic destroyed the tapes. Its sign-in sheets, which would have had the names of potential witnesses who went into the clinic the day Pine was there, were also destroyed.
DOJ lawyers apparently thought the case heinous enough to meet with the president of the abortion clinic the day after the incident. But they conceded that at no time during this meeting or after did they ask the clinic for the tapes or the sign-in sheets. Accordingly, DOJ entirely failed to obtain what the judge called “potentially critical evidence.”
This “negligent, and perhaps even grossly negligent” behavior by the DOJ lawyers led the judge to wonder whether the legal action against Ms. Pine was in fact the “product of a concerted effort between the government and the [abortion clinic], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities” rather than enforce the statute. In other words, the judge believed that Ms. Pine may have been targeted for her political beliefs. “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” Ryskamp wrote at the conclusion of his ruling.