Nashville, TN — On Tuesday, six pro-life activists who participated in a peaceful rescue at an abortion facility outside of Nashville, Tennessee, nearly three years ago, were found guilty of charges that could force them to serve 10 ½ years in prison and pay fines of up to $260,000. The sentencing hearing will take place on July 2.
This follows a similar 2023 conviction of pro-lifers who participated in a rescue at Washington Surg-Clinic in Washington, D.C. One of the Nashville rescuers, Heather Idoni, was also convicted in that case and is already jailed.
The FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
March 5, 2021:
The rescue took place on March 5, 2021, at Mt. Juliet’s Carafem abortion facility. The group of 11 pro-life activists peacefully sat in the shared hallway of the building housing the abortion facility singing hymns, praying, and speaking to clients of the abortion center. In doing so, they hoped to persuade mothers to allow their babies to live.
Several participants were arrested by local police the day of the rescue. They were charged with misdemeanor trespassing, a charge that normally allows for release on one’s own recognizance, or $50 to $100 bail. However, their bail ranged from $1,000 to $2,500.
October 5, 2022:
More than a year after the rescue, the FBI arrived, with guns drawn, at the home of one of the activists. Others who were present the day of the rescue were ordered to report to their local authorities and charged with FACE Act charges, and much weightier federal conspiracy charges were unjustly added to their rap sheets.
The conspiracy charges were grounded in the fact that some of the rescuers utilized social media to promote and coordinate the rescue.
January 30, 2024:
A federal jury convicted six of the eleven protestors for violation of the FACE Act and of felony conspiracy against rights. Those convicted and awaiting sentencing are Chester Gallagher, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, Paul Vaughn, and Dennis Green.
“The moral conviction of these rescuers to save innocent babies led them to willingly sacrifice their time and resources, and to risk their liberty,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “I am certain they never anticipated a totalitarian government would use such heavy-handed methods to unjustly attack and persecute them. But, sadly, this is the world in which we now live.
“It is truly a shame that peaceful protestors are being treated with this degree of undeserved severity in this nation. We are instructed in Hebrews 13:3 to ‘Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.’ So, let us pray they will be comforted and that this travesty of justice will be corrected.”