One advantage to the Obama administration for those who advocate for reproductive health rights has been the growing enforcement of FACE Act violations — arrests over “counselors” who try to harass or intimidate women and doctors away from clinics under the guise of “saving babies” or “educating females.”
But as NPR notes, anti-choice activists aren’t happy with the new focus on enforcement, saying that their right to protest and “counsel” should give them nearly unlimited access as long as they don’t physically contact their targets.
[Troy] Newman leads Operation Rescue, a group that protests at abortion clinics across the country. He calls this Justice Department’s approach to the FACE Act “a political tool to shut them up, shut them down and make them go away.”
“This is a ridiculous overstepping of the federal government’s bounds and with the intent of restricting our freedom, our liberties and our speech,” says Newman, who says he was sued under the same law by the Justice Department when Bill Clinton was president.
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Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa says the department takes “seriously our responsibility to enforce FACE fully and fairly and in a manner that does not infringe on any First Amendment rights.
“The department has stepped up civil rights enforcement across the board, and will continue to vigorously enforce all the laws under its jurisdiction, including the FACE Act.”
But, Newman says, he follows a simple rule: “My rights and your rights end at where our nose begins. So in other words, I can swing my arms wildly on the street but as soon as I hit you in the nose, that’s a violation.”
Nothing like an activist who bases the legality of his advocacy activities on a Simpsons episode.