A Joplin, Missouri man was sentenced to 63 months in jail on Tuesday for setting fire to a local mosque and attempting to burn down the town’s Planned Parenthood clinic twice. Jedediah Stout, who pleaded guilty to four separate counts including a federal charge of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance (FACE) Act, will also have to pay over $700,000 in restitution. Under the FACE Act it is a crime to intentionally damage a reproductive health clinic because of the services offered there.
Stout’s case is the second FACE conviction this month. Last week, Travis Reynolds, a Baltimore man, pleaded guilty to vandalizing a women’s healthcare facility. Reynolds had spray painted “Baby Killer,” “Kill Baby Here” and other comments on a Baltimore clinic in what he admitted was an attempt to intimidate women from accessing reproductive healthcare services.
In a statement about the Baltimore case, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta said, “While people have a First Amendment right to peacefully express their views, they do not have a right to vandalize clinics in the hopes of deterring women from receiving lawful services that those facilities provide.”
Threats, vandalism and acts of violence against abortion providers, which was already high, increased in the last year following the 2015 release of fraudulent videos by the so-called Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion group that falsely accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue. The now thoroughly debunked videos ignited a wave of state and federal investigations into abortion providers, all of which have found zero evidence of wrong doing on the part of healthcare and research professionals.
Last month, a federal judge in California ruled that Planned Parenthood could proceed with their federal racketeering lawsuit against CMP and its associates. Planned Parenthood alleges that CMP violated a number of state and federal laws to make their videos, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act and the Federal Wiretap Act. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) was also maliciously targeted by CMP, and was granted a restraining order blocking CMP from releasing any footage surreptitiously filmed at NAF meetings.
Despite these facts, a House Select Investigative Panel investigating abortion providers has yet to disband. Instead, the Panel, led by Representative Marsha Blackburn, has been publicly subpoenaing doctors and researchers in an attempt to harass and intimidate them, a process the Panel’s democrats have referred to as a “McCarthyesque witch hunt.”
Releasing the names of people involved in stem cell research and abortion care could endanger their safety. In April, a Washington man pleaded guilty in federal court to threatening the lives of StemExpress employees and encouraging others to kill them, after they were subpoenaed by the Panel.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has been calling on the Panel to either redirect its focus to violence against abortion providers or disband. Take action here.