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Kristan HawkinsKristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America

(LifeSiteNews) — The convictions late last month of a group of pro-life advocates for a peaceful protest at a Tennessee abortion facility have sparked calls from major pro-life leaders to repeal the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which many conservatives criticize for having been unfairly deployed against advocates for the unborn.

On January 30, six pro-life advocates were convicted on federal felony charges for their involvement in a 2021 “rescue” effort at an abortion facility near Nashville, Tennessee. The convictions carry a maximum sentence of nearly 11 years behind bars and come despite the fact that the facility at which the protest was held has since been forced to stop offering abortions thanks to Tennessee’s pro-life laws.

READ: Six pro-lifers found guilty of federal felonies in Tennessee rescue, face 10-plus years in prison

In a Wednesday letter obtained by The Daily Signal, a bevy of high-profile leaders urged lawmakers to work to scrap the FACE Act in the wake of the convictions, arguing the 1994 law is “unconstitutional” and has been “weaponized” against pro-life advocates.

“[W]e respectfully urge you to take immediate legislative action to protect peaceful pro-life activists from the Biden administration’s weaponized Department of Justice and an unconstitutional law,” the letter reads.

The signers, including Live Action’s Lila Rose and Students for Life of America’s Kristan Hawkins, are urging House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson to pass the FACE Act Repeal Act of 2023.

Additional signers of the letter, led by Advancing American Freedom, include the Thomas More Society’s Tom Brejcha, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, CatholicVote’s Tom McClusky, the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Ryan Anderson, and Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance.

The FACE Act is ostensibly meant to ensure access to churches and pro-life pregnancy resource centers in addition to abortion facilities. However, it is frequently used to prosecute pro-life advocates who protest outside abortion facilities and almost never used against pro-abortion vandals or people who have attacked or defaced churches.

“To date, the federal government has never used the FACE Act to protect a church,” the letter obtained by The Daily Signal states.

The signers further explain that “it wasn’t until Republicans took back the House and promised to end President Biden’s reign of woke and weaponized government that the Department of Justice even charged a pro-abortion activist with violating the FACE Act.”

In January 2023, the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives created a “Weaponization of Government” Select Committee to investigate instances of FBI and other federal intelligence agencies’ meddling in domestic politics, including the use of the FACE Act to arrest pro-lifers like Catholic husband and father Mark Houck.

That same month marked the beginning of a handful of FACE Act indictments against pro-abortion activists who vandalized pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

The failure of the federal government to act prior to the emergence of Republican leadership came in spite of the fact that, as the letter points out, “hundreds of [pro-life] pregnancy centers and churches” have been “attacked since the Dobbs decision was leaked in May of 2022.”

CatholicVote has reported that at least 229 churches have been attacked since the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked.  

The lack of FACE Act prosecutions against any church vandal and only a handful of pro-abortion activists has triggered backlash and accusations of a double standard on the part of the openly pro-abortion Biden administration.

“There is no question as to whether the FACE Act is being disproportionately applied to pro-lifers,” the signers of the Wednesday letter declared.

Noting that data is “sparse” concerning FACE Act prosecutions, in spite of “official requests from members of Congress,” the signers stated that their “best estimates indicate that the FACE Act has been used ~130 times with just 5 FACE Act charges being leveled against pro-abortion activists.”

Those facts led the signers to state “that the FACE Act is unconstitutional” and “wrongly usurps police powers reserved to the states by the Constitution,” authorizing “the Department of Justice to swoop in to punish its political enemies rather than equally applying the law.”

Moreover, the letter stresses that the controversial measure functions to protect abortion, even though “taking the life of the unborn is no longer and never rightly was a constitutional right.”

The call from pro-life advocates to repeal the controversial law comes after Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas introduced a measure to do just that late last year. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also introduced a version of the same legislation in the Senate.

In comments to The Daily Signal at the time, Roy said that “Biden’s Department of Justice has brazenly weaponized the FACE Act against normal, everyday Americans across the political spectrum, simply because they are pro-life.”

“Free Americans should never live in fear of their government targeting them because of their beliefs,” he said.

READ: Rep. Chip Roy introduces bill to repeal FACE Act following Biden admin prosecution of pro-lifers

With the FACE Act still in force today, however, pro-life advocates like the six convicted January 30 continue to face steep fines and lengthy prison sentences for their efforts to save the unborn.

The pro-life advocates who were convicted January 30 are: Coleman Boyd, Chester Gallagher, Dennis Green, Heather Idoni, Paul Vaughn, and Calvin Zastrow, LifeSiteNews previously reported. They face sentencing in July.