The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted a 10th pro-life activist in connection to a 2020 blockade of a Washington, D.C. abortion clinic as Republican lawmakers contend the agency may be misusing its power to target opponents of legal abortion. A federal grand jury indicted Herb Geraghty of Pennsylvania, an atheist who serves as the executive director of the pro-life organization Rehumanize International, for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act by participating in a blockade of an abortion clinic. Nine other pro-life activists were previously indicted in connection to the same event. The FACE Act subjects anyone who “intentionally attempts to, or does, injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person” seeking to “obtain or provide reproductive health services,” to federal charges. Geraghty and the other pro-life activists face up to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $260,000 if convicted.
The announcement of Geraghty’s indictment restates the charges laid out in the previous indictment of the nine other defendants, that they “engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.” According to the indictment, Geraghty and co-defendants “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes.” The document characterized their actions as violating the FACE Act. The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), a progressive pro-life advocacy group, claimed that the 25-year-old’s indictment “is part of the Biden administration’s ongoing persecution of non-violent anti-abortion activists and leaders.” The group states that Geraghty is the first atheist to be charged with alleged FACE Act violations.
“For nearly 30 years since FACE was enacted, it has rarely been used to prosecute life advocates. Yet in 2022 alone, under the Biden/Garland DOJ, there have been 22 peaceful pro-life activists indicted under the act.” PAAU contends that while the DOJ charged the defendants with conspiring to “deny civil rights,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year that abortion is not a constitutional right. While the indictment of the nine other pro-life activists came before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision denying abortion as a constitutional right, Geraghty’s indictment took place nearly 4 months after the court made that determination. Geraghty’s indictment is the latest example of actions taken by the DOJ and the FBI that have caused pro-life activists concern. The event pro-lifers cite as the most troubling is the arrest of pro-life activist Mark Houck at his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Houck is the founder of a ministry that seeks to “build men into leaders, protectors, and providers through education and action.” As the DOJ laid out in a statement announcing Houck’s arrest, court documents associated with Houck’s indictment assert that Houck “twice assaulted a man because he was a volunteer reproductive health care clinic escort” at a Planned Parenthood (PP) clinic in Philadelphia, requiring him to receive medical attention. A statement issued by the Houck family provides a different account of what happened outside the PP clinic. “Last year, Mark and his son were praying in front of the clinic. One of the escorts began harassing Mark’s son so they walked down the street away from the entrance to the building. The escort followed them, and when he continued yelling at Mark’s son, Mark pushed him away.” The statement also claims a team of FBI officers arrested Houck with guns drawn in front of his wife and 7 young children.
While the fundraiser page claims a SWAT team “burst into” Houck’s home, the FBI contends that no SWAT team was involved and that agents knocked on the door and presented a warrant for his arrest. Houck’s arrest sparked outrage from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and pro-life activist groups. In an interview with The Christian Post, PAAU President Terrisa Bukovinac indicated that Houck’s arrest motivated her to call for the resignation of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Two days before news of Geraghty’s indictment broke, a group of 40 members of Congress sent a letter to the FBI asking for statistics about the law enforcement agency’s interpretation of the FACE Act. In the letter, lawmakers suggested that the FBI was engaged in “abuses of federal power against pro-life Americans based solely on their beliefs,” citing Houck’s arrest as an example of this phenomenon.
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