Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances & Places of Religious Worship

The Special Litigation Section also enforces the civil provisions of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (FACE). This Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services or to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services or a place of religious worship.  FACE authorizes the Attorney General to seek injunctive relief, statutory or compensatory damages, and civil penalties against individuals who engage in conduct that violates the Act.

The Section has served a pivotal role in enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), 18 U.S.C. § 248, to protect patients and health care providers against threats of force and physical obstruction of reproductive health facilities. The Department has filed more than 15 FACE actions in more than a dozen states and there are ongoing investigations in other states. Section attorneys have obtained temporary restraining orders and preliminary and permanent injunctions under the FACE and have won civil contempt motions for violations of these injunctions.

For example, the Section obtained a preliminary injunction against 35 defendants for blockading a reproductive health facility in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In another case, the Section won preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting defendants from threatening a California reproductive health doctor and his wife. In addition, the Section secured a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction prohibiting a defendant, who had threatened a doctor, from approaching the Ohio clinic. When the defendant violated the injunction, the Section was successful in obtaining criminal contempt. The Section won civil contempt and fines against another defendant based on violation of an injunction creating various buffer zones outside a Connecticut reproductive health care clinic. The Section also successfully defended against constitutional challenges to FACE.

Section attorneys work closely with the offices of the United States Attorneys and State Attorneys General by providing technical assistance and conducting joint FACE prosecutions. In addition, the Section serves on the Attorney General's National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers.

For further information, follow the links below:

Updated June 28, 2022

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