When the Supreme Court overturned Raw vs. Wade Last June, anti-abortion activists finally won the award they had been seeking for decades. But since then, pro-life voices on the right have been searching for a new cause of injustice — and they may have found one: a wave of federal prosecutions against people who illegally denied access to abortion clinics.
“Surely the FBI is just pro-trial hunting for life,” the governor said Washington Examiner announce in October.
The backlash to the prosecutions has mostly gone unnoticed in the mainstream media. So far, there is no evidence that activists have been unfairly targeted. But on the right, these issues are evidence before the midterms that what conservatives increasingly call the Biden “system” has unfairly tried activists.
Most of the attention in the prosecutions has focused on Mark Hawke, an anti-abortion activist in Pennsylvania who was arrested at his home in September. According to prosecutors, Hook was protesting outside Planned Parenthood’s branch in Philadelphia in October 2021 when he twice scolded and pushed a 72-year-old man who worked as a clinic escort on the grounds where she helped the victim bring two patients to the clinic.
Hook, like more than 20 other anti-abortion activists this year, is accused of violating the Free Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The law, which was enacted in 1994 to prevent anti-abortion protesters from denying staff and patients access to abortion clinics, now appears to be the key to the Department of Justice’s renewed effort to prosecute protesters who allegedly violated the law.
Echoing right-wing media complaints about how the FBI made arrests of Trump aides and suspects in the Capitol riots, conservative media lit up after Hook’s arrest, claiming that the FBI was being too ruthless. LifeSite, an anti-abortion news outlet, announced that Hawke was arrested while his seven “terrified” children watched. Twenty-two Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding proof that Hook’s arrest was not an “extraordinary abuse of political ends.”
“The FBI went to his house to arrest him,” former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, now at Fox News, said on the channel days after Hook’s arrest.
“She goes beyond the idea that this is a politicized organization,” said Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who appears on McEnany’s show.
Fundraising efforts on Hawke’s behalf have proven hugely successful on the right. The Hawks family has raised more than $380,000 on the crowdfunding site GiveSendGo known as Right Causes.
Republican governor candidate Doug Mastriano, who has endorsed the QAnon conspiracy theory and other fringe groups, also embraced the Hawke case. In a statement issued after Hook’s arrest, Mastariano claimed – without any evidence – that Hook’s home was broken into by a “heavily armed SWAT team” dispatched by the “Biden system.”
“I will not allow Joe Biden’s police state to impose his persecution on his political enemies on the Holy Land of Pennsylvania,” Hook said in a statement.
The FBI denied sending a SWAT team to Hawke’s home.
When asked about the FACE Act trial series, a Department of Justice spokesperson referred The Daily Beast to Ministry of Justice website Inclusion of recent prosecutions under law. Federal prosecutors filed at least six FACE cases in 2022, according to that site, as well as four more in 2021. By comparison, during the Trump administration, the Department of Justice listed only five FACE cases that were filed.
In June, Garland Quote The FACE Act as a Tool to Protect Abortion Access After the Supreme Court’s Repeal Raw vs. Wade.
“The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” Garland said in a statement.
The Thomas More Center, an anti-abortion legal group representing Hook, did not respond to a request for comment. In interviews with conservative media, one of Hook’s attorneys denied he had “made anything wrong.” His lawyer said Hook was protecting his son, who was also protesting at the clinic, from the elderly man.
Hook is not the only anti-abortion activist facing prosecution under the FACE Act this year. Ten protesters have been indicted for allegedly being denied access to an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C. and broadcasting the activity live, according to prosecutors.
In October, 11 anti-abortion activists were indicted over an alleged scheme to block access to an abortion clinic in the Nashville area. Other cases included a man accused of pouring ultra-fine adhesive on the gate of a clinic and a man who shot the clinic with a pellet gun.