The threat to freedom of speech among pro0life Americans has taken a terrible turn for the worse. One may wonder how it could happen that in the United States of America a bill could be signed into law that basically discriminates against an entire group of people simply because of what they believe. Yet, in the case of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (F.A.C.E.) Act that is what happened.
Since January of 1993 certain members of the United States Congress have felt strongly that they could find a way to silence pro-life protests in front of abortion mills. They proposed the legislation we know as F.A.C.E., and proceeded to argue that pro-lifers were, in general, “violent”, “intimidating” and in other ways offensive to the business of abortion!
Then, when Dr. David Gunn was murdered in March of 1993, those very members of Congress, in concert with the major media and pro-abortion groups around the country had their “reason” for advancing F.A.C.E. Ultimately, having tied the murder, which, by the way, was resolved with a court case and a sentence against the perpetrator of the act, to the “need” for such legislation, the bill ultimately passed Congress on May 26, 1994.
On that same date, however, after months of preparation, American Life League filed a suit in U.S. Federal District Court, alleging that F.A.C.E. violated the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech, assembly and practice of religion. We argued on behalf of the supporters of American Life League and our plaintiffs in the case that the bill was drafted in such nebulous language as to have the effect of silencing those who peacefully, nonviolently and legally protest the killing of children by abortion. This lawsuit was filed against U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and asked for a temporary injunction that would stop the law from being enforced, a permanent injunction that would negate the law permanently and in addition we asked for relief for those who would be negatively affected by such a law.
Though the Federal District Court judge ruled the law constitutional, she did grant that American Life League had a “live” constitutional question and she also granted standing to us. Thus on June 30, 1994, American Life League filed a “notice of appeal”, alerting the Federal District Court to the fact that we would appeal the judge’s ruling against us in the case. We are in the process of preparing our brief right now and feel that oral arguments will be heard perhaps as early as January of 1995.
The fact of the matter is that our very freedoms as law-abiding citizens to speak out against the crime of abortion, to pray for the souls of those affected by abortion and to assemble quietly in order to protest this killing are at stake. Never before in the history of the United States of America has a law been enacted that would literally silence an entire group of Americans simply because of what they believe! The F.A.C.E. law is such a draconian measure that it is incumbent upon us to fight it with every strength we have and to whatever degree necessary in order to protect our right to oppose abortion in public ways.
I find it interesting, as we pursue this lawsuit, that what is really behind the efforts of those who worked for the passage of this law is very simple – it is money. Each time a mother who is contemplating the aborting of her child approaches an abortion mill and she sees someone praying of silently picketing or handing out literature focusing on her baby, there is always the chance that she will change her mind, continue her child’s life and thus deny income to the facility in which the killing takes place. Effectively that means that the “commerce” is affected in a negative way, and a child is saved but money is lost. And that, in my humble opinion, is exactly what this law is all about.
For if by law pro-life peaceful, nonviolent protestors can be removed from the scene, then there is one less opportunity for that mother to think about the reality of what abortion does to her baby, to herself and to the baby’s father too.
As outrageous as this may sound to you, that is the law and that is exactly why we have sued to overturn this law. Our goal is to see this law ruled unconstitutional, period!
We are far from an ultimate victory, but our course is clear, our goal is right and our commitment to fight this law to the highest court in the land is steadfast. Let us hope and pray for the day when not only is F.A.C.E. found unconstitutional, but the act of abortion itself is found under American law to be as despicable and as evil as it already is under the law of God.
Then a real victory will have been won for freedom!
Judie Brown is president of American Life League, Inc., the largest grass-roots pro-life organization in the U.S.