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DOJ official says Dobbs decision ramps up ‘urgency’ to enforce FACE Act, protect reproductive services

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Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said earlier this month that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has faced growing ‘urgency’ to work to protect reproductive services, in part by enforcing the FACE Act, following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

In remarks delivered to mark the DOJ division’s 65th anniversary on Dec. 6, Gupta said the Supreme Court’s decision ‘dealt a devastating blow to women throughout the country.’ 

The decision, she said, took away the constitutional right to an abortion and increased the ‘urgency’ of the DOJ’s work ‘including enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.’

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, or FACE Act, is a law that ensures Americans’ access to pro-life and pro-choice reproductive health services.

While the DOJ has been prosecuting alleged FACE Act violations by pro-life activists, the Supreme Court decision has also led to dozens of violent incidents at pro-life pregnancy centers staged by pro-choice demonstrators. For example, the radical abortion rights group Jane’s Revenge has claimed credit for vandalizing or firebombing at least 18 of these pro-life clinics. But the FBI has made no arrests related to these incidents, and so far, no FACE Act charges have been brought against anyone involved in these attacks.

The law makes it a federal crime, with potentially steep fines and jail time, to use or threaten to use force to ‘injure, intimidate, or interfere’ with a person seeking reproductive health services, or with a person lawfully trying to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship. The FACE Act also prohibits intentional property damage to a facility providing reproductive health services or a place of religious worship.

The Justice Department ramped up prosecutions of pro-life activists in the months following the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, under the law that was barely used in 2020 and 2021 but has now been used to indict 26 people this year. In contrast, only four FACE Act indictments took place in 2021, according to the DOJ.

The FBI has denied Republican lawmakers’ accusations that the agency’s investigations are politically motivated. Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: ‘we have quite a number of investigations as we speak, into attacks or threats against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and other pro-life organizations.’ 

He insisted that around 70% of the FBI’s abortion-related violence investigations have been threats against pro-lifers.

‘We’re going after that through our joint terrorism task forces, through our criminal authorities, FACE Act, and things like that,’ Wray said. ‘We have about 20 field offices involved in this, and so, we take it very seriously. And again, I don’t care whether you’re motivated by pro-life views or pro-choice views, you don’t get to use violence to express it.’

Fox News Digital has reached out to Gupta for comment. She served in the Obama administration and was appointed associate attorney general by President Joe Biden and confirmed on April 21, 2021. 

The DOJ referred questions to the FBI which did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This report has been updated to clarify Gupta’s remarks about the Dobbs v. Jackson decision.

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