By Kathleen Gilbert
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A pro-life witness in San Antonio, Texas, is facing a lawsuit from the federal government after entering an abortion facility to offer pro-life alternatives to an abortion-bound couple.
Federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act was passed under President Clinton in 1994 and prohibits individuals from directly interfering with access to abortion.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Antonio by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 56-year-old Juan Gaona is accused of entering the centre on April 17, 2009 and blocking the entrance to the waiting room before being forcibly removed by staff. Gaona was further accused of directing insults and profane language at abortion workers during his years of routine witness outside the abortion clinic. The San Antonio Express-News reports the suit could result in a restraining order and a $10,000 civil penalty.
In a telephone interview with LifeSiteNews.com Friday, Gaona said that the claims of the lawsuit were false, and that he did not block the doorway as he stood in the abortion centre. Gaona, who has witnessed outside the facility on Babcock Road 2-3 times a week for 7 years, said he felt compelled to enter the building after conversing with a young man whose partner was entering the clinic for an abortion.
"I had been out there praying and it broke my heart what he told me - I was trying to convince him to give up the baby for adoption, he said, 'I would rather kill the baby than give him up for adoption,'" Gaona told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN). "And I couldn't convince him otherwise. And it seemed like the more I prayed, the more I felt compelled to try to go in and reach him."
After returning on the date the man's partner was scheduled to have the abortion, Gaona said he entered the facility in one last attempt to persuade him. "They wanted me to leave, but I had to make a point before I left. I tried calling them to repentance and telling them they're babies they're killing," he said.
Gaona claims he remained for "two or three minutes" in the doorway before walking out "of my own accord," at which point he says an angry clinic worker “assaulted” him, knocking him to the ground and choking him. He says the assault, as well as the "slander" claiming that he used profanity, could be the subject of a possible counter-suit. "I don't use profanity, I'm a strict Catholic," said Gaona.
The Texas pro-lifer said he has entered abortion facilities before, prior to the passage of the FACE Act; one such instance elicited a civil lawsuit which was dismissed. He maintains that his witness outside clinics is "very peaceful."
Gaona said he would be speaking with Justice Institute lawyers Friday afternoon.
The veteran pro-lifer said that he "felt called to do pro-life work by God," and traced the beginning of his pro-life witness to 1972. "I had gotten back from Vietnam and the abortion issue was just in the airways, and I remember asking my mom what an abortion was, because I had no idea," he said. "And she told me what it was, and I thought, not in America, you know. Not in America."
Yvonne Gutierrez, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas, declined to comment to LifeSiteNews.com on the matter, because "the case is in litigation."