Department of Justice sues two organizations and seven individuals for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on Monday, May 20 in the Northern District of Ohio against Citizens for a Pro Life Society, Red Rose Rescue, as well as seven individuals for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The FACE Act “prohibits threats of force, obstruction, and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services.” 

The complaint claims the two organizations and seven individuals engaged in unlawful physical obstruction of two Ohio reproductive health facilities in order to prevent them from providing patients with reproductive health care services. The events took place at Northeast Ohio Women’s Center in Cuyahoga Falls and on June 5, 2021 at Planned Parenthood of Great Ohio’s Bedford Heights Surgery Center. At the time of the action, Ohio reproductive laws allowed individuals to give and receive abortion care, despite the state’s attempts to enforce a ban. 

Monica Miller, one of the defendants in the case, has publicly stated that Red Rose Rescue (RRR) will continue to run as long as abortion is legal in any state. RRR is an anti-abortion group that organizes events across the country where participants occupy reproductive healthcare facilities, obstruct individuals from providing abortions, and intimidate patients seeking care. Participants in such demonstrations refuse to leave until police officers physically force them to leave; Miller has acquired numerous arrests and convictions engaging in such unlawful activities. 

Another individual defendant in the lawsuit, Jay Smith was noted to have visibly upset patients and staff at the Planned Parenthood obstruction and physically pushed one patient with his shoulder.

Smith is one of a handful of anti-abortion activists charged with conspiracy against rights, a felony that “makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).” 

In 2020, the Justice Department charged nine individuals with conspiracy against rights statute in conjunction with the FACE Act for the first time. On May 14, one of the defendants, Lauren Handy, an anti-abortion activist who participated in the 2020 blockade at Washington Surgi-Clinic, received a sentence of four years and nine months for her violation of the two laws.

The plaintiff seeks monetary penalties up to $20,516 for the first offense and no more than $30,868 for subsequent violations. They are also seeking compensatory damages and injunctive relief, as provided by the FACE Act, to ensure such individuals, such as Miller and Smith, and organizations are unable to engage in similar activities in the future. 

“Individuals have the right to access facilities in Ohio to make decisions about their own bodies, health and futures, in consultation with health care providers, free from force, threats of force, intimidation or physical obstruction,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. 

Lutzko stated that the Northern District of Ohio United States Attorney’s Office is dedicated to enforcing the FACE Act and protecting individuals’ right to reproductive health care and encouraged those with information about potential violations to contact their office. 


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