What is the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE)? Both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate passed FACE in 1994. President Clinton signed FACE into law in 1994. FACE is a federal law that was passed in order to protect reproductive health facilities and their staff from violent threats and assaults. A reproductive health facility is defined as a place such as a hospital, clinic or physician's office that provides reproductive health services. FACE also protects churches and other places of worship. FACE provides for criminal and civil prosecution of any individual who by force, threat or physical obstruction:
- Intentionally injures or attempts to injure.
- Intimidates, attempts to intimidate or places a person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
- Interferes, attempts to interfere or restricts a person's freedom of movement.
FACE does not permit a parent from interfering with a minor's efforts to obtain an abortion, obtain contraceptive counseling, or attending a place of worship.
If an individual is criminally charged for violating FACE he may be subject to a variety of penalties. If it is the individual's first offense, he generally will not be sentenced to more than one year in prison and $100,000 fine. For subsequent offenses the individual may be sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined up to $250,000.
If an individual is charged with blocking the entrance of a facility as defined under FACE he may be subject to not more than 6 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. For subsequent violations, the individual may be sentenced up to 18 months and a $25,000 fine. If the individual's action result in physical injury to another, he may be sentenced up to 10 years in prison regardless if the individual was previously convicted.
An individual who violates FACE may also be subject to a civil lawsuit. A private plaintiff may obtain temporary, preliminary, or permanent injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and fees for attorneys. Instead of receiving compensatory damages, FACE provides that the private plaintiff may elect to recover $5,000 for each proven violation. Additionally, the U.S. Attorney General or a state attorney general may also bring suit in federal court on behalf of third parties injured by FACE violations.
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