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PRI Weekly Briefing: About FACE

By Jay Rogers
Published August 1, 2001

By Steven W. Mosher, President, Population Research Institute

Dear Colleague:

You don’t have to go to China to discover forced abortion. It exists right here in America, and has for many years. But now, thanks to a recent decision in the federal courts, there may now be a way to stop these abuses. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which makes it a felony to interfere with a woman’s ability to obtain reproductive health services, has been found to apply to those who coerce women into abortions, such as boyfriends — or abortionists and their assistants. We have launched an “About FACE” campaign – a national campaign to protect American women against violations committed in private and state-funded abortion clinics and family planning centers throughout the U.S.

Steven W. Mosher
President, Population Research Institute

About FACE

On March 29, 1997, a young, pregnant woman – we’ll call her Jane Roe, II – entered the Aware Woman Center for Choice in Florida. She was there for an abortion.

She was undressed and put on the operating table. Soon after the procedure began, she felt a pain pierce her vitals. Racked by “extreme, excessive pain in her abdomen,” she begged the abortionist to stop. “Call an ambulance!” she cried, “Take me to the hospital!”

The abortionist, a Dr. William P. Egherman, refused. When Jane tried to get up, Egherman ordered his assistants to hold her down. Four pairs of hands gripped Jane’s arms and legs, rendering her immobile. He continued the abortion.

Jane was eventually taken by ambulance to an emergency room where it was discovered that Ehgerman had perforated her uterus and lacerated her colon. Follow-up surgery was required to remove her now-dead baby and repair her internal organs.

Fortunately Jane’s story doesn’t end here.

With the help of a pro-life attorney, Chris Sapp, Jane filed suit against Ehgerman and the owners of the abortion clinic. She charged that their actions violated the Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act.

FACE makes it a felony punishable by ten years in prison to intentionally interfere with anyone’s ability to obtain reproductive health services. A product of the Clinton administration, it was originally used only to silence pregnancy counselors and others outside of abortion clinics who urged alternatives to abortions. But Mr. Sapp made the novel argument that FACE should also protect women like Jane Roe from the horror of forced abortion.

In a major setback for the abortion industry, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. “If the defendants restrained Roe for the purpose of preventing her from obtaining any [reproductive health services], then she has adequately pleaded a violation of FACE.”1

This decision by the federal courts has effectively criminalized forced abortion. Coerce a woman into an abortion, sterilization, or other reproductive health services she does not want and you may spend up to 10 years in federal prison.

We think of forced abortions as happening only in countries like China, but they are very much part of the abortion scene in America. Many-perhaps most-of the abortions done today in the United States are violations of federal law. The man who threatens to beat his pregnant girlfriend unless she gets an abortion is violating the FACE act. The college counselor who tells a pregnant 19-year-old student that she “must” get an abortion is violating the FACE act. And abortion clinic personnel who make it impossible for a woman to change her mind after entry are violating the FACE act.

This new legal precedent can also be used to help protect women against the full range of abortion-related abuses, including lack of informed consent and lack of information about the harmful side-effects of abortion. Ultimately, it can help protect millions of victims from the horror of abortions performed under physical and psychological duress.

This is why Population Research Institute has launched a national campaign to protect American women against violations committed in private and state-funded abortion clinics and family planning centers throughout the U.S. We call it “About FACE.”

For years, PRI has worked to end coercive practices in U.S.-funded family planning programs abroad. “About FACE” will help to end such abuses in government-funded clinics at home.

With “About FACE,” we will educate sidewalk counselors in the new law. We will publish a simple how-to manual telling people how to identify when a felony is being committed at an abortion clinic. (When someone spots an obviously distressed woman being led into an abortion clinic, he can now call in a federal marshal. The marshal will then investigate the abortion clinic on probable cause that a felony is being committed. With a felony, you don’t need a search warrant, only “probable cause.”)

With “About FACE,” we will tell young women whose human rights have been violated how they can seek redress in the courts. We are publishing, both in print and electronic formats, a “Know Your Rights” brochure that will outline the new precedent. Written in simple, non-legalistic language, and available in both Spanish and English, it will encourage young women like Jane to step forward.

With “About FACE,” we will educate pro-life attorneys. Working with Chris Sapp and the Counselor Corps, we will lay the areas where the Eleventh Circuit’s decision may be applicable, and assist them in their own cases.

With “About FACE,” we will turn the FACE act on its head.

1 Jane Roe, II vs. Aware Woman Center for Choice, Inc., a Florida corporation, Edward W. Windle, Jr., Patricia B. Windle, and William P. Egherman, M.D., United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, No. 00-10231, filed June 8, 2001.


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