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DOJ charges 11 pro-life activists in 2021 abortion clinic confrontation



Eleven pro-life activists involved in a confrontation at a Tennessee abortion clinic in 2021 face potential prison time under federal charges announced Wednesday by the Department of Justice.

Prosecutors unsealed indictments Wednesday charging Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Caroline Davis, Paul Vaughn, Dennis Green, Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, James Zastrow and Paul Place with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it illegal to use force, intimidate or interfere with anyone seeking or providing reproductive health care.

Mr. Gallagher, Ms. Idoni, Mr. Zastrow, Mr. Boyd, Ms. Davis, Mr. Vaughn and Mr. Green also have been charged with a civil rights violation for conspiracy to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.

According to the DOJ, Mr. Gallagher used social media to organize a number of pro-life protests in the Nashville area in 2021, including a March 5 demonstration at the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mount Juliet.

Federal prosecutors said Mr. Gallagher and the other defendants violated the FACE Act by blocking a clinic patient and employee from entering the clinic.

The DOJ said the confrontation was captured on video and live-streamed by the defendants, including an interaction the group had with another patient and her companion in which Mr. Boyd told the camera that the patient was a “mom coming to kill her baby.”  

All defendants will have court appearances scheduled in Nashville at a later date.

Seven of the pro-life demonstrators each face up to 11 years in prison and fines of up to $350,000 if convicted.

The remaining defendants face a year in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted of their FACE Act violations.

The tactics used by pro-life activists have become a focus for the DOJ in recent weeks.

Pennsylvania pro-life activist Mark Houck was arrested during an FBI raid at his home last month and has been charged with FACE Act violations. He’s accused of shoving a clinic escort to the ground outside of a Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Mr. Houck’s wife said the confrontation started because the clinic volunteer was harassing Mr. Houck’s then-12-year-old son.  

Mr. Houck has pleaded not guilty.

Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.





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