Three pro-life advocates were recently convicted on FACE Act charges for their involvement in an abortion clinic barricade in Washington, D.C. The verdicts, which could result in up to 11 years in prison for each defendant, have drawn criticism from conservatives who say the FACE Act is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and religious liberty.
The defendants – Jonathan Darnel, 41, of Arlington, Va.; Jean Marshall, 73, of Kingston, Mass.; and Joan Bell, 74, of Montague, NJ – were each convicted of a felony conspiracy against rights and a Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act offense for “forcefully” entering and “blockading two clinic doors” at the Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, D.C. on October 22, 2020, according to a Justice Department news release.
The FACE Act was passed in 1994 in response to a rise in violence and intimidation at abortion clinics. The law makes it a federal crime to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to prevent individuals from obtaining or providing an abortion and other reproductive services.
“I am definitely not guilty of the charges leveled against me, which is rather ironic that I should find myself in this position,” Darnel told Fox News Digital in an interview earlier this month. “Nevertheless, if a jury finds me guilty of FACE even erroneously, it would be an honor because the kids are worthy of protection.”
“Marshall and Bell were among a group that forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes,” authorities said. “Once the blockade was established, Darnel – who remained outside the clinic — live-streamed their activities on social media.”
U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who presided over the trial, argued their actions were not protected under the First Amendment.
Kollar-Kotelly, who President Bill Clinton appointed in 1997, ordered the defendants immediately into custody.
BREAKING: @TheJusticeDept Under @JoeBiden Just Convicted 2 Geriatric Grandmas Who Are #ProLife For Protesting At An #Abortion Clinic! They Now Face 11 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON & The DOJ Is Bragging About The Conviction! pic.twitter.com/B3WoD02dSd
— John Basham (@JohnBasham) September 18, 2023