Much ink, both virtual and physical, has been spilled over the Obama administration’s decision to force employers to offer contraceptive coverage as part of their employee health insurance plans. The administration’s callous disregard for the religious convictions of many employers — including those who, while not opposed to birth control per se, do not approve of contraceptives that can cause abortions — has rightly drawn condemnation from many quarters. The ruling is emblematic of President Barack Obama’s status as “the most pro-abortion advocate to ever hold the nation’s top executive office,” in the words of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
But while the contraceptive mandate has garnered most of the attention, the administration has also been quietly waging war on the pro-life movement through legal action and intimidation. Although it has achieved few clear-cut victories in court, the mere fact that the full force of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is being brought to bear against those who stand up for life could inhibit many from continuing to defend the unborn in public.
The FACE of Pro-life Suppression
The administration’s primary weapon in its assault on pro-lifers is the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the act prohibits (1) any physical interference with or intimidation of individuals entering or exiting an abortion clinic and (2) violence or threats of violence against clinic staff, volunteers, or patients. It was passed in the wake of a number of acts of violence against abortion clinics and doctors — acts that were already illegal under state penal codes and were prosecuted as such. The law, therefore, was both unnecessary and — because it exceeds the federal government’s enumerated powers — unconstitutional.
It also singles out abortion clinics for preferential treatment under federal law. One is free to try to dissuade others from entering, say, a bar or a casino, but one dare not press his case too strongly with a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy or he risks having the DOJ haul him into court for violating the FACE Act — despite the fact that the law expressly upholds individuals’ rights to free speech “regardless of the point of view expressed.”
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