FACE law


Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

Paul Hill Convicted Anti Abortion Pro Life Christian Murderer

It might have come down to a simple question mark.

On July 29, 1994  anti-abortion advocate Paul Hill killed Doctor John Britton and his body guard, James Barrett, as they pulled into the parking lot of the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. Hill just calmly walked up to the pick-up truck, took out a shotgun and, aware that the Doctor was wearing a bullet proof vest, shot him in the face. Hill was quickly arrested, tried and convicted. He died by lethal injection on Sept 3, 2003.

Several months before the murders, I was at the White House when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. That law prohibited the “use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with …any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing…such services.” That law also included language confirming that anti-abortion protestors could exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of prosecution. Of course, how one defined the right to protest was subject to interpretation.

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Bill Clinton Abortion Rights Advocate

Once the law became effective, pro-choice groups started lobbying the Department of Justice to use it against protestors who were considered particularly dangerous. Paul Hill, because he believed that it was “justifiable homicide” to kill an abortion doctor, was very high on the list.

A long-time presence at the Ladies Center, Hill was known for carrying with him a very large sign that read: “EXECUTE MURDERERS ABORTIONISTS ACCESSORIES?” The sign caught the attention of many in the media, it intimidated patients and it terrified the clinic staff. When the National Coalition of Abortion Providers held a memorial service for Doctor David Gunn at the site of his murder in March, 1994, Paul Hill was quietly walking back and forth with that very sign.

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro Lifer Murder Threat Today!

Pro-choice groups were very concerned about Hill (as were some anti-abortion advocates), but the lawyers at the DOJ were not sure what they could do about him. In June, 1994 I had a conversation with one of their attorneys and he said that he had not crossed the Free Speech line because he was not saying out loud “I am going to kill a doctor.” Instead, he was “merely” expressing his views on the issue, i.e., saying that he thought it was “justified” to kill an abortion doctor. When I raised the issue of the sign, the attorney directed me to the question mark at the end of the sentence. I had never noticed it. Paul Hill was “merely” posing the question.

Department of Justice

Department of Justice

Was Paul Hill really that smart? Did he understand how far he could push the First Amendment? We’ll never know. We do know, however, that Hill was being watched very carefully by the authorities but that sign – and his very ugly speech – was not actionable.

I often wonder what the authorities might have done if there was no question mark on his sign.

I wonder if a case could have been made under the FACE law?

I wonder if the lives of two people could have been saved?

Abortion

Abortion

Well, it’s January 22nd, yet another anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade which legalized abortion in this country and started a controversy that will never subside.  Please note that I say the Court “legalized” abortion – I didn’t say that they invented abortion.

I live about 8 miles south of Washington, D.C. and I’ve already noticed a number of buses pouring into town with their pro-life signs hanging from their sides.  Indeed, as I write this tens of thousands of anti-abortion advocates are standing in the freezing rain listening to the same speeches that they’ve been listening to for years.  They will hold their rallies then very soon start their march up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They’ll be more rallies, bullhorns, prayer vigils, speak outs, women who all of a sudden “regret” their abortions.  You name it, there’s something for everyone.

Abortion

Abortion

Meanwhile, in much smaller numbers there will be the usual pro-choice “counter” events that are designed to make sure that in tomorrow’s newspapers or tonight’s news shows, there will be a pro-choice presence as well.  Also, there will be the inevitable debate not about the issue but about how many people attended the rallies.

Around and around it goes, and for all of these years practically nothing has changed.  The only thing for certain is that the number of abortions has gone down for a number of years and it is practically impossible to say why.   Personally, I just have to believe that it’s because women, particularly younger ones, are simply more educated when it comes to birth control.   But, yes, another reason may be that there continues to be an abortion stigma and single parenthood seems more acceptable these days.

Abortion

Abortion

One thing that pro-choicers will cite is the constant legislative “attacks” on a woman’s right to have an abortion.  And, yes, the pro-lifers are taking advantage of the more conservative climate in many state legislatures but a lot of those laws deal with “informing” women of the “humanity” of the fetus, making them look at silly pictures.  These laws do not seem to really have much of an impact.  Then, there are a few clinics that have actually closed, mainly because as the number of patients decrease, some clinics are hurt and find they cannot pay the rent, equipment leases, and payroll.  Like all businesses, they are affected by the number of “customers.”

Abortion Pill

Abortion Pill

And then, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently pointed out, organizations on both sides continue their decades-long pursuit of dollars.  It seems that both sides always feel a need to send out fundraising letters with large, red lettering and lots of exclamation points.  The now famous “personhood bill” is a good example.  We’re gonna see the proposal in a number of states but, really folks, if it didn’t pass in Mississippi, what state will pass the damn thing?

The bottom line is 39 years later, (less) women are still getting abortions and the clinics stand ready to serve them.

Bravo.

Abortion.com Law access to Abortion Clinics

Stop Anti Abortion Terrorism

I looked President Clinton directly in the eye and, shaking his hand, said “Thank you Mr. President for helping to protect our clinics.”

In the last week, I’ve been reading with great interest how President Obama’s Department of Justice has been aggressively using the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE”), a law passed in 1994 designed to protect abortion clinics, abortion patients and the clinic staff from certain anti-abortion activity.

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers , in the early 1990’s I attended a number of meetings with the Clinton Administration’s staff about the need for federal protection from anti-abortion zealots.  At that point, any prosecution of such activity was carried out generally by the state and, well, there were a number of states that did not give a crap about protecting abortion clinics.  But the Clinton folks were in a quandary because, as they told us, they had no jurisdiction in these cases because there was no federal law protecting clinics.  So, they urged us to try to pass the “FACE” Act, which had been introduced a while ago but was languishing in the Congress.  Our meetings were very frustrating because we knew – we just knew – that one day the violence would escalate.  And on March 10, 1994, it did go to a new level when Doctor David Gunn was murdered as he entered his clinic.

Abortion Clinic

Abortion Clinic

Doctor Gunn’s death and the incredible amount of publicity it generated gave pro-choicer groups more ammunition to pass the FACE Act and to give the Department of Justice jurisdiction over these crimes.  Congressional hearings were held, the pro-choice lobbyists worked hard to get support for the bill and ultimately the bill passed both houses of Congress.

By this time, I had become good friends with David Gunn, Jr. and his sister, Wendy.  In fact, after a while David basically became the national spokesman for NCAP, going so far as to pose for a picture that was used in a full page New York Times ad to help us raise money.  We were both on “The Donahue Show” together and on various other shows as well.

Abortion

Abortion

After the Congress passed the FACE Act, I got a call a call from one of Clinton’s staff people inviting me to attend the signing of the bill in the White House.  Needless to say, I was totally thrilled, having never been to the White House except for that crappy little public tour.  Then, that night I got a call from David, Jr. and he told me that he and Wendy had been invited to the White House as well and he asked me if I could pick them up that morning and drive over with them.  They were both very nervous and what they didn’t know was I was probably just as nervous.

So, I picked them up at their hotel that morning and we drove over.  I actually found a parking space pretty close to the White House so we had just a short walk.  We entered through the North Gate and were escorted to the West Wing to a room with about 75 chairs and a podium.  I was standing next to David and Wendy, trying to soak it all in when an official came over and said to us “Excuse me, but the President would like a few words with you.”   They started to follow him and David looked back and waved me to follow him.   But I was stopped at the door and when it opened, I caught a glimpse of the President standing behind his desk in the Oval Office.  I mean, that was pretty cool…

After about 10 minutes, the three of them came out and the audience sat down.  I was in the front row, sitting next to California Senator Barbara Boxer.  The President spoke about the need for this bill, about how his administration would protect the clinics (while guaranteeing the first amendment rights of the protestors) and that was that.  He actually didn’t have the bill in front of him to sign, so I didn’t get one of those pens for a souvenir.  Then he was done, and we all started to mingle.

At one point, I took a step backwards and bumped into somebody.  When I turned around to apologize, I was face to face with the President.  Shaking, I stuck out my hand and thanked him for his help.  I will never forget how he looked at you straight in the eye, as if he was clinging to your every word, just you and him in the White House.  It was mesmerizing and I guess that is what made him such a great politician.

It took a while for the Clinton Administration to get its feet wet enforcing the new law and, of course, when the Bush crew came in not much happened.  I am now happy to see that the Obama Administration is going to aggressively enforce the law.   But it’s sad to think that after all of this time, it is a law that still needs to be enforced.

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

For the last few days, we’ve been talking a lot about Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC).

If you are pro-life, these CPCs are establishments that seek to offer pregnant women (or non pregnant women, for that matter) information about their options.  The staff people at these centers sit back and wait for the women to come in, they then sit them down in, in a non-judgmental environment, tell them all about adoption, childbirth and abortion.  Yes, their bottom line is that they are against abortion but they really just want to make sure that woman is educated and knows what resources are available to her should she decide to give birth.

If you are pro-choice, these centers lure women into their facility under false pretenses, pretend that they are a medical office by offering ultrasounds and fill the women’s heads with lies about how the perils, both emotional and physical, of this very easy procedure.

Coincidentally, in the wake of our discussions, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate called “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Service’s Act.”  In their press release, the authors of the bills brought attention to the bill’s clever acronym:   SDAWS.

Just kinda rolls off the tip of your tongue, doesn’t it?

If the bill became law, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to issues rules declaring that it is an “unfair or deceptive act” for a CPC to advertise that they are “a provider of abortion services.”  The pro-choice groups are understandably elated and energized.  One leader applauded the initiative and said “we should all agree that a woman should not be misled or manipulated when she’s facing an unintended pregnancy.”   The troops are gearing up to storm the Congress to get this important legislation passed.

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, Lies, and Misinformation

My initial reaction is that this is an incredible waste of time.

Now, I admit that I have not done a full-fledged review of every CPC in the country, but I would bet that house that hardly any of them actually advertise that they “provide abortion services.”   I mean, c’mon, even the sleaziest CPC staff person would never, with a straight face, say that.  And if anyone can show me differently, I totally welcome the evidence and will offer a mea culpa.

Sure, many of them, if not most, say that they provide “abortion information,” but, technically, that is true.  They do offer “information” on abortion, albeit in many cases it is the wrong information.  But it is “information” nonetheless.

So, to me, the big question is:  why are these pro-choice Members of Congress and the pro-choice groups spending time and resources on trying to pass a bill that – in the unlikely event that it becomes law – will have practically NO impact?  And, for argument’s sake, let’s say the FTC does find a totally whacky CPC director who says in their Yellow Page ad that they provide abortion services.  The FTC will theoretically bring some kind of action against them and chances are that that CPC will just agree to not say it in the future.  And if they refuse to change their ways, maybe they’ll be shut down.  Well, that leaves only THOUSANDS of more CPCs to go after!   Way to go folks!

I certainly appreciate the energy of the authors of these bills and I am sure they will now get a nice donation from the pro-choice political action committees because they have shown they are pro-choice “leaders.”  Meanwhile, they’ve issued their press releases and are getting some attention on pro-choice blogs, websites, etc.

But, in the long run, ain’t nothing gonna change.

And around and around we go….

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