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Obama Administration Doing More to Enforce the FACE Act

The Justice Department has been enforcing the laws on abortion access with more frequency in recent years than its predecessors. The shift from an anti-choice to a pro-choice executive branch should make this obvious, but nonetheless it’s welcome news.

Since Obama’s inauguration, federal lawsuits have been filed against a woman who blocked a car from entering a clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla.; a Texas man who threw his body across the door of a patient waiting area in San Antonio; and a Pennsylvania man who posted on the Internet the names and addresses of abortion providers and extolled his readers to kill them.

Government records obtained by The Associated Press show that in slightly over two years, the Obama Justice Department has filed six lawsuits under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, mostly to seek injunctions and fines. That compares with just one such lawsuit during the entire eight years of George W. Bush.

(Abortion doctor George) Tiller’s slaying “brought home to many of us the terrible potential for violence and the need to use every legal means at our disposal to prevent it,” said Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for Kansas.

It’s sad that it took the Tiller murder to make this happen, but that case did highlight the need for aggressive enforcement of the FACE Act. Rachel Maddow is practically the only media figure who has connected the Tiller murder to a network of domestic terrorists and singled out the FACE Act as a way to stop the violence and the threats. The government appears to be taking heed.

And it’s good to see the head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, say that protecting abortion access and the liberty of abortion providers is of the “utmost importance.” Criminal prosecutions have not risen at the same rate as these civil lawsuits, but anything that enforces the FACE Act is positive. It’s a matter of life and death.

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David Dayen

David Dayen