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The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (FACE) law

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Sponsored link.

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The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (commonly called the FACE law) protects
bulletcrisis pregnancy centers,
bulletabortion clinics,
bulletphysicians' offices,
bulletother reproductive health clinics,
bulletchurches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other religious buildings.

"by establishing Federal criminal penalties and civil remedies for certain violent, threatening, obstructive and destructive conduct that is intended to injure, intimidate or interfere with persons." [from Section 2]

It is not generally realized that the FACE law protects both pro-choice abortion clinics, and pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. It also assures people access to worship in religious buildings without harassment.

Section 3 (a) of the law prohibits persons using force or physical obstruction to:
bulletintentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with:
bulletA person seeking access to a reproductive health service,
bulletA person providing a reproductive health service, or
bulletA person attempting to access a religious service

Threats to do any of the above are also prohibited by the law. The FACE law also applies to a person who intentionally damages or destroys property at a reproductive health services clinic or religious building.

The FACE law does not "prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration)". [Section 3 (d)(1)].

In 1994-MAY, the FACE bill was signed into law by President Clinton. First-time offenders can receive a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Subsequent offenses can increase the penalties to 3 years and $250,000.

The FACE law has often been associated with the judicial banning of picketing within a certain number of feet of an abortion clinic. This concept of providing "buffer zones" is unrelated to the FACE law. They have been created by judges who have used such zones when granting injunctions.

Since being signed into law, FACE has survived a number of challenges on the basis of first amendment rights (freedom of speech). It seems to have significantly reduced the number of blockades of abortion clinics.

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Reference:

  1. The "Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) FAQ" website contains the full text of the law at: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/law/clinic-access/ 

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Copyright © 1995 to 2004 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2004-JAN-16

Author: B.A. Robinson

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