Justice Department offers pro-life activist plea bargain: limit your protests or pay $20,000
PITTSBURGH, November 14, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – On election day, the Justice Department forced a pro-life protester to stay at least 25 feet away from a Pittsburgh abortion facility or face $20,000 in fines. The move is the latest act in what some pro-life activists and attorneys have argued is the Obama administration’s attempt to stifle pro-life speech nationwide.
Justice Department attorneys accused Meredith Parente, 56, of shoving two escorts outside Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. Parente admitted no guilt but signed the agreement last Tuesday to avoid a costly trial.
“The FACE Act is being used illegitimately,” John Whitehead, a civil liberties attorney and founder of The Rutherford Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com. “For the government to use it the way some agents are using it is illicit and wrong.”
Critics say the administration has falsely accused pro-life activists of FACE Act violations to intimidate them into silence. In September Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, boasted, “We have opened 20 civil investigations under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, and filed eight complaints under the Act—compared to just one civil FACE Act case in the eight years of the previous administration.”
Obama administration officials believe “by filing these suits and committing the unlimited resources of the United States government against these good people, that somehow they would back down and give up their right to free speech voluntarily,” Harry Mihet, senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, told LifeSiteNews.com.
In April, the DOJ paid Mihet’s client, Mary Susan Pine, $120,000 in lawyers’ fees after wrongly accusing her of violating the 1994 law.
Federal Judge Kenneth Ryskamp questioned whether the prosecution “was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the [abortion provider], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities.”
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Multiple papers issued by the Obama administration have classified pro-life activists as potential domestic terrorists.
Andy Moore, the son-in-law of popular pro-life blogger Jill Stanek and proprietor of AbortionWiki.org, said in July that FBI agents made what he interpreted as threats to deport him and asked questions that led him and other pro-life activists to believe the government is gathering intelligence on the pro-life movement.
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It was recently revealed that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife and sister-in-law have rented facilities to an abortionist.
Whitehead told LifeSiteNews that anyone the government accuses of wrongdoing should contact lawyers dedicated to protecting their First Amendment rights.
“Don’t give up your right to free speech,” he said. “Our right to express ourselves is being repressed, so don’t give it up easily.”