Federal Judge Rules Part of Clinic Defense Law Unconstitutional
A federal judge recently found part of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) unconstitutional. US District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt dismissed charges against a Houston, Texas man who crashed a van through the doors of the Houston Planned Parenthood Clinic in March, according to the Houston Chronicle. Anti-abortion advocates believe the decision will allow greater access to the clinics. In light of a series of decisions upholding the FACE Act, "this decision is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. This worries me a lot," Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, told the New York Times.
Judge Hoyt ruled that the federal FACE Act went beyond Congress's constitutional duty to regulate interstate commerce, according to the Times. He based his decision on a 2000 US Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Violence Against Women Act that found that Congress had no authority to "regulate non-economic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce," the Chronicle reports.
The Department of Justice announced that it would appeal the decision and defend the landmark law in court, according to the New York Times. The FACE Act prohibits not only violence against abortion providers, clinic staff, patients, and volunteers, but also threats of violence. "In light of the adverse decision in NOW v. Scheidler, FACE is needed more than ever to stem anti-abortion violence and threats of violence plaguing our nation's clinics today," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
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Media Resources: Houston Chronicle 8/20/03; New York Times 8/30/03; CNSNews.com 8/25/03