DOJ Sues 5 Pro-Life Activists For Repeatedly Obstructing Access To Abortion Clinics

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Authored by Beth Brelje via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against pro-life advocates, alleging violations under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that prevents interfering with women entering abortion clinics.

The civil suit seeks a monetary penalty and an injunction preventing repeat offenders from continuing their activity, marking a departure from the criminal cases that have been brought to prosecute violators of the FACE Act in recent years. In previous cases, the DOJ has asked the court to sentence the alleged offenders to 11 years in prison for each offense.

The DOJ filed the lawsuit on June 20 in the Middle District of Florida against five people for violating the FACE Act two years ago at the Fort Myers Health Center, a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.

The case alleges that five people brought operations at the Fort Myers Health Center to a halt for at least one hour on Jan. 27, 2022. As a result, several patients had their appointments rescheduled or canceled, and one employee quit working there after eight years.

Named in the lawsuit are Calvin Zastrow of Michigan, a longtime pro-life advocate; Kenneth Scott of Florida, who has been charged numerous times for pro-life advocacy at abortion clinics and often represents himself in court; Chester Gallagher of Tennessee, a former police officer who left his job to advocate for the unborn; Eva Zastrow of Michigan, a missionary and pro-life activist; and Katelyn Sims, also known as Katelyn Velasco, of Texas.

The defendants trespassed onto a reproductive health center’s property, blocked the entrances, and temporarily stopped operations at the center, the complaint alleges.

The defendants were charged locally in Lee County and found guilty. Several pro-life minors were also arrested for the incident and charged locally with trespassing.

The defendants have been charged in previous FACE cases and are unlikely to stop showing up at abortion clinics, according to the complaint.

Stephen Crampton, senior counsel for Thomas More Society, will represent some of the defendants, who have been advised not to make statements about the case.

This prosecution is yet another example of our two-tiered justice system ... whereby defenders of life are aggressively prosecuted while most who violently attacked churches and pro-life pregnancy centers are not brought to justice,” Mr. Crampton told The Epoch Times.

“While we are pleased the DOJ has pulled back from its effort to inflict draconian criminal punishment on these gentle pro-life advocates, we are disappointed that they have decided to relentlessly pursue these peaceful, nonviolent demonstrators and seek civil penalties—including ruinous fines—for events that occurred years ago and which resulted in local law enforcement already taking action, as our federalist system of government rightly contemplated,” he said.

Blocked Door

On Jan. 27, 2022, a Planned Parenthood security coordinator noticed the defendants arriving across the street from the Fort Myers Health Center at about 7:45 a.m. in several cars with out-of-state license plates, according to court papers. By 8:25 a.m., the center’s management was instructing employees to park at a tile outlet store’s parking lot next door and to wait for the security coordinator to escort them into the building.

As employees arrived to work, the abortion protesters allegedly shouted “baby murderer” and “you’re going to hell” at them, the complaint said. A Planned Parenthood doctor was instructed to stay in her car due to the protests, and the DOJ says she was unable to enter the business until 10:30 a.m.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office then received reports from the Fort Myers Health Center that protesters were preventing individuals from entering the building, according to the complaint.

Some defendants walked onto the property in front of the sheriff’s deputies and toward the door, while yelling, “They are killing babies inside and you are not doing anything about it.”

A woman arrived for services while some defendants were blocking the door. The Planned Parenthood security officer had to pry open the door and the woman had to squeeze past the protesters to enter, court papers say.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested one protester for trespassing. Another was still sitting in front of the door and refused to leave. He was also arrested for trespassing.

Two other protesters went to the back door where employees had entered and tried to get in, but the door was locked, court papers say.

The protesters tried to shove signs under the door, and according to the DOJ, employees inside were frightened by the protesters’ attempts to get in the back door and grabbed weapons, including a scalpel and an IV pole, to defend themselves if the protesters got inside.

Those protesters were also arrested for trespassing.

Repeat Offenders

The defendants violated the FACE Act by blocking doors and intimidating women and abortion workers, the DOJ alleges, adding they have done it before and are likely to continue to commit such violations.

Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Zastrow, and his daughter, Ms. Zastrow, have been criminally convicted in a previous FACE case and await sentencing. The Zastrows await court for other cases in Michigan.

Each criminal case carries up to 11 years in federal prison. Instead of prison, this civil case asks for a penalty of $20,516 for first violations and no more than $30,868 for subsequent violations, plus damages of $5,000 for each person allegedly aggrieved by the defendants.

It is unclear how many people the DOJ is counting as aggrieved in this incident.

The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.

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