US Charges 11 Pro-Life Activists for Blocking Access to Abortion Clinic

US Charges 11 Pro-Life Activists for Blocking Access to Abortion Clinic
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks in Washington, on April 1, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

U.S. prosecutors charged 11 pro-life activists with violating federal law by blocking access to an abortion clinic in Tennessee in 2021.

Prosecutors say Chester Gallagher and others conspired to blockade a clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, utilizing Facebook to coordinate travel and logistics for co-defendants.

Caroline Davis, also a defendant, at one point wrote to Coleman Boyd, who was also charged, that she would meet him for a “rescue” in Tennessee in March 2021.

The group did block a woman and an employee from entering the clinic, authorities said, citing a livestream broadcast by Boyd. The broadcast was titled “Mt. Juliet, TN Rescue March 5, 2021.” The group went into the hallway outside the clinic’s two entry doors before it was scheduled to open.

Gallagher said on a separate livestream that he and those with him were “willing to be incarcerated” to “rescue families from this place of destruction.”

Local police officers arrested nine people, including Gallagher. The people went inside the facility “and basically just sat down, and they were not going to leave,” Mount Juliet Police Department Capt. Tyler Chandler said at the time.

A federal grand jury has indicted Gallagher, Davis, Boyd, Heather Idoni, Dennis Green, Calvin Zastrow, and Paul Vaughn on charges of civil rights conspiracy and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act). Eva Edl, Eva Zastro, James Zastro, and Paul Place were charged only with violating the FACE Act.

Civil rights law prohibits two or more people conspiring “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person ... in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

The FACE Act bars obstructing people from obtaining “reproductive health services,” including abortions.

If convicted, those charged with conspiracy face up to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Those charged with FACE Act violations face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The only lawyer listed on the docket was a public defender. Public defenders don’t comment on ongoing cases outside of court.

Edl and Idoni didn’t respond to requests for comment. The others couldn’t be reached. Vaughn has already made his initial appearance and has been released, according to the docket.

A.J. Hurley, director of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, told The Epoch Times that he was at other protests at the clinic and that he’s friends with some of those who were charged.

Hurley said the group did block the clinic but noted that the trespassing charges were dropped against some of those charged locally. He later said that violations of the FACE Act will need to be proven in a court of law.

Hurley also said the group is innocent of the conspiracy charges due to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Court that struck down Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that concluded that access to abortion was a constitutional right.

“In Tennessee, abortion is not a constitutional right, and Dobbs declared that the states have the right to determine their own laws regarding abortion,” he said. “It’s never been a constitutional right in the state of Tennessee. Therefore, they’re completely innocent of those charges.”

Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated the conspiracy law. It is civil rights conspiracy. The story also inaccurately stated that A.J. Hurley said the group is innocent of all charges. He only said that about the conspiracy charges. The Epoch Times regrets the errors.