The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reportedly charged 11 pro-life advocates with federal charges related to a 2021 protest at a Tennessee abortion clinic.
In a press release announcing the charges on Wednesday, the Department of Justice said that the 11 individuals violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act during a 2021 protest in which they “engaged in a conspiracy to prevent” a Nashville-area abortion clinic “from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.” Their names: Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Caroline Davis, Paul Vaughn, Dennis Green, Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, James Zastrow, and Paul Place.
Identifying Chester Gallagher as the leader, the department alleges that he utilized social media to coordinate the blockade of an abortion, otherwise known as a “rescue.”
“His coconspirators and others blocked the clinic’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering,” said the department. “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.”
Without going into specifics, the charges further allege that the activists used “physical obstruction to intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because the clinic was providing, and the patient sought reproductive health services.”
According to Live Action, the FBI attempted to raid the home of Chester (Chet) Gallagher over what they reported was a peaceful protest that local authorities did not see fit to prosecute:
The event in March 2021 was reportedly peaceful, with participants lining the inside hallway of a shared general medical office building which, in one area, houses the Carafem abortion facility. The rescuers who were gathered that day prayed and sang, and the event was nonviolent. Some recorded the events on video. Several participants were arrested by local police that day and were later released after posting bail for misdemeanor trespass charges.
FBI agents “arrived with guns drawn” at Gallagher’s home. Since Gallagher was out of state at the time, the agents also “attempted to gain information on his whereabouts from neighbors,” according to LiveAction. LifeNews reports officers “demanded his whereabouts from Gallagher’s family.”
A majority of the defendants could receive up to eleven years in prison, according to the DOJ’s announcement:
If convicted of the offenses, the seven conspiracy defendants each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $350,000. The remaining five defendants face a year in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $10,000.
The indictment was approved by a federal grand jury after the FBI raided the home of pro-life activist Mark Houck as his “screaming” children watched in horror last month over charges related to the FACE Act stemming from an incident in which Houck shoved a 72-year-old abortion activist who was escorting women into a Planned Parenthood clinic. Houck’s family maintains that the man had been harassing his 12-year-old son.