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Federal judge convicts four more pro-lifers for 2021 protest

Eva Edl holding a bible Getty Images/Photo by Spencer Platt

Federal judge convicts four more pro-lifers for 2021 protest

A federal judge in Tennessee found four pro-life advocates guilty on Tuesday of violating the FACE Act during a peaceful protest in 2021. Middle District of Tennessee Magistrate Judge Chip Frensly presided over the one-day bench trial, convicting the quartet for blocking the entrance to an abortion facility. Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, James Zastrow, and Paul Place join six other pro-life demonstrators convicted in January for the same protest. The group sat outside the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., where they sang hymns and petitioned women entering the office not to get abortions. The four are scheduled for sentencing on July 30 and face a year in prison, along with thousands of dollars in fines.

How can someone be convicted for just sitting outside an abortion office? The federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, makes prohibiting access to an abortion facility a federal offense. The legislation also protects pro-life clinics and churches. The Biden administration filed charges against the four, arguing they were not protesting but rather taking part in criminal activity.

The protesters’ legal team argued the Biden administration had not proven the group barred people from entering the office or stalled facility operations. Lawyers argued the protesters peacefully practiced their faith, for which they were now being prosecuted. DOJ prosecutors insisted the group was on trial for its actions, not personal beliefs. Texas Rep. Chip Roy and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, both Republicans, have released a co-authored bill to repeal the 1994 FACE Act.

Dig deeper: Read Travis K. Kircher’s report in Vitals about one of the first six convicted protestors.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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