The Department of Justice charged 11 pro-life activists with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for allegedly blocking access to a Tennessee abortion clinic 19 months ago. Some of the pro-life activists face hefty prison sentences for the demonstration.
On March 5, 2021, pro-life activists staged a protest inside the Carafem abortion clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. A 29-minute video shows the pro-life protesters lining the walls of the abortion clinic as they sang and prayed. A woman in a wheelchair and two men sat in front of a door.
Mount Juliet Police Department officers asked the protesters to leave the clinic and welcomed them to continue the demonstration outside the building. After a brief negotiation with a pastor who spoke for the pro-life group, police gave the protesters five minutes to vacate the premises. Some of the protesters left, but a handful did not.
Live Action – a pro-life news site – reported, "Several participants were arrested by local police that day and were later released after posting bail for misdemeanor trespass charges."
On Wednesday, the DOJ charged 11 people for violating the FACE Act. Seven people were charged with “conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act, and committing FACE Act violations,” which is punishable by up to 11 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Five protesters face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Caroline Davis, Paul Vaughn, Dennis Green, Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, James Zastrow, and Paul Place were indicted on federal offenses related to the FACE Act. Gallagher, Idoni, Zastrow, Boyd, Davis, Vaughn, and Green were charged with conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act.
The ages of the defendants range from 24 to 87.
The DOJ accused Gallagher of using social media to "promote a series of anti-abortion events scheduled for March 4-7, 2021, in the Nashville area," including the "rescue" at the Carafem Health Center Clinic.
Boyd is accused of livestreaming the pro-life protest on Facebook.
The DOJ claimed that the protesters "prevented a patient and an employee from entering."
The DOJ alleged, "The livestream also broadcast members of the group attempting to engage a patient and her companion as Boyd told his livestream audience that the patient was a 'mom coming to kill her baby.'"
The Department of Justice press release stated, "The indictment further alleges that on March 5, 2021, the 11 individuals, aided and abetted by one another, used force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, and interfere with employees of the clinic and a patient who was seeking reproductive health services."
The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the civil rights coordinator of the U.S. attorney's office and trial attorneys of the department's Civil Rights Division.
Live Action reported that neighbors of Gallagher claimed that the "FBI arrived with guns drawn and entered the Gallagher home." However, Gallagher was reportedly out of the state when the FBI raid happened.
Pro-life activist AJ Hurley told Live Action that Gallagher "happened to be in South Carolina, but the neighbors reported and then [the FBI] ended up coming to talk to the neighbors to get his cellphone number, to find out where he was."
Hurley added, "He was in South Carolina, immediately offered to turn himself into the U.S. Marshals’ office, which they said he could turn himself in tomorrow, so he’ll be turning himself in tomorrow morning."
Hurley noted that other individuals facing charges were "called by the FBI telling them they had arrest warrants and had to turn themselves in."
The Carafem clinic no longer performs abortions at the site because Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act banned abortions in the state on Aug. 25, 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Last month, up to 30 FBI agents with guns allegedly drawn raided the home of a pro-life activist for reportedly pushing a man to the ground outside an abortion clinic in Pennsylvania nearly a year ago. The pro-abortion man allegedly harassed the Christian man's young son.
As of Sept. 22, there have been 98 pro-abortion incidents of threats, vulgar graffiti, property damage, theft, and arson targeting Catholic churches, pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other pro-life organizations since early May, according to the Catholic News Agency.
Radical pro-abortion group Jane's Revenge has made numerous threats of violence toward pro-life organizations and has claimed responsibility for at least 16 acts of vandalism or arson that have targeted pro-life groups. Jane's Revenge said the group was behind the Molotov cocktail attack on Wisconsin Family Action – a pro-life group headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.
On Wednesday, Washington Free Beacon investigative journalist Chuck Ross commented on the Tennessee case, "DOJ with another likely bogus case under the FACE Act against people protesting at an abortion clinic. Meanwhile, no charges under the FACE Act (or any other Act) for the people who have firebombed crisis pregnancy centers."