Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act
Great Seal of the United States.
Full title Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994
Acronym FACE
Enacted by the 103rd United States Congress
Effective May 26, 1994
Stat. 108 Stat. 694
Title(s) amended 18
U.S.C. sections created 248
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) on
  • Passed the Senate on November 16, 1993 (69-30)
  • Passed the House of Representatives on March 17, 1994 (237-169)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on May 2, 1994; agreed to by the House of Representatives on May 5, 1994 (241-174) and by the Senate on May 12, 1994 (69-30)
  • Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 26, 1994
Major amendments
Relevant Supreme Court cases

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE or the Access Act, Pub. L. No. 103-259, 108 Stat. 694) (May 26, 1994, 18 U.S.C. § 248) is a United States law that was signed by President Bill Clinton in May of 1994, which prohibits the following three things: (1) the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing reproductive health services (this portion of the law typically refers to abortion clinics), (2) the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person who is exercising or trying to exercise their First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship, (3) the intentional damage or destruction of a reproductive health care facility or a place of worship.[1][2]


Actions prohibited and not prohibited


The following behaviors have especially to do with reproductive health care clinics but can also be applied to places of worship[3][4]

  • Blocking a person’s access to the entrance of a facility
  • Impairing cars from entering and/or exiting a facility
  • Physically stopping people as they are trying to walk toward an entrance or through a parking lot
  • Making it difficult or dangerous to get in and/or out of a facility
  • Trespassing on the property of a facility
  • Committing any act of violence on a clinic employee, escort or patient
  • Vandalism
  • Threats of violence
  • Stalking a clinic employee or reproductive health care provider
  • Arson or threats of arson
  • Bombings or bomb threats

Not prohibited

The following behaviors are not prohibited because they are protected under the First Amendment right to free speech[3][4]

  • Protesting outside of clinics
  • Distributing literature
  • Carrying signs
  • Shouting (as long as no threats are made)
  • Singing hymns


Many of the words used in the official text of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act are subject to different interpretations. For this reason the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice provided formal definitions for these terms:[1][3][4]

  1. Facility—The term "facility" includes a hospital, clinic, physician's office, or other facility that provides reproductive health services, and includes the building or structure in which the facility is located.
  2. Interfere with—The term "interfere with" means to restrict a person's freedom of movement.
  3. Intimidate—The term "intimidate" means to place a person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm to him- or herself or to another.
  4. Physical obstruction—The term "physical obstruction" means rendering impassable entrance to or exit from a facility that provides reproductive health services or to or from a place of religious worship, or rendering passage to or from such a facility or place of religious worship unreasonably difficult or hazardous.
  5. Reproductive health services—The term "reproductive health services" means reproductive health services provided in a hospital, clinic, physician's office, or other facility, and includes medical, surgical, counseling or referral services relating to the human reproductive system, including services relating to pregnancy or the termination of a pregnancy.

Rationale for the Act

The Act was passed in direct response to the escalation of violent tactics used by anti-abortion activists. Between the years 1978 and 1993, the number of violent crimes committed against reproductive health care providers, reproductive health care facilities and abortion clinics were steadily on the rise. According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been at least 9 murders, 17 attempted murders, 406 death threats, 179 incidents of assault or battery, and 5 kidnappings committed against abortion providers. In addition, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 175 arsons, 96 attempted bombings or arsons, 692 bomb threats, 1993 incidents of trespassing, 1400 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid ("stink bombs").[5] One anti-abortion group known as the Army of God, was especially active in committing these violent crimes. This group alone was responsible for bombing and setting fire to over one hundred clinics before 1994. They also invaded more than three hundred clinics and vandalized more than four hundred[6] In 1993, officials found the Army of God Manual, a tactical guide to arson, chemical attacks, invasions and bombing[7], buried in the backyard of Shelly Shannon’s home. Shelly Shannon was soon found guilty of the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller that same year[8]. In addition to committing acts of violence, many[quantify] anti-abortion activists were known to stalk medical personnel and use their photographs on "Wanted for Murder" posters[6] This on-going violence reached its peak in March 1993 when David Gunn, a reproductive health care provider, was shot and killed by Michael F. Griffin outside of the Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic located in Pensacola, Florida[6] This increase in violence had become very burdensome to local law enforce. The Senate decided that such unlawful conduct was interfering with the constitutional right of women to receive reproductive health care services (abortion in particular), which has been guaranteed since the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973[9][10]

Effectiveness of the Act

According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), incidents of the more disastrous forms of violence (such as murder, attempted murder, bombing and arson) have greatly decreased since 1994, the year the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances act was put on the books[5] The Clinton administration prosecuted 17 defendants for violations of the F.A.C.E. act in 1997 alone and prosecuted an average of about 10 defendants per year since the law was enacted[11]. The Bush administration, however, only prosecuted about two defendants per year for violations of the F.A.C.E. act. It is up to one’s personal interpretation whether this decrease in prosecutions was because the F.A.C.E. act did in deed deter would-be criminals from committing acts of violence or because the enforcement of this law simply was not a priority on the political agenda for the Bush Administration. According to Cathleen Mahoney, Executive Vice President of the National Abortion Federation and former attorney in the Justice Department, “The amount of [violent] activity really did drop a lot after FACE was enacted and it was beginning to be enforced,” however “…the political will wasn’t there.”


  1. ^ a b United States. Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act – Statute. , Web. 21 Nov 2009. <>.
  2. ^ U.S. Code Collection." Cornell University Law School, Web. 23 Nov 2009. <>.
  3. ^ a b c "Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act." 2009. National Abortion Federation, Web. 6 Nov 2009. <>.
  4. ^ a b c "Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) FAQ". FAQ. Retrieved November 23, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "NAF Violence and Disruption Statistics: Incidents of Violence & Disruption Against Abortion Providers in the U.S. & Canada." Apr 2009. National Abortion Federation, Web. 22 Nov 2009.
  6. ^ a b c "The Death of Dr. Gunn". New York Times. March 12, 1993. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Army of God: The Perceived War and Holocaust." 2000. Web. 22 Nov 2009. <>.
  8. ^ Warner, Bill. "Bill Warner Private Investigator Sarasota Fl to Panama City, Male & Female Detectives ." Dr. George Tiller Murdered by Army of God (AOG) Member, Shooting Suspect Scott P. Roeder Identified By Sheriff, AOG Alive And Well in Wichita Kansas.. Bill Warner Private Investigator, 31 May 2009. Web. 22 Nov 2009. <>.
  9. ^ Deflem, Mathieu, and Brian Hudak. "Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (FACE) ." Encyclopedia of American Civil Rights and Liberties. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006. Web.
  10. ^ "About FACE: Using Legal Tools to Protect Abortion Providers, Clinics and Their Patients." Center for Reproductive Rights, Web. 5 Nov 2009. <>.
  11. ^ Eviatar, Daphne. "Little-Enforced Law Opens Window for Suits Against Extremist Groups." 03 Jun 2009. The Washington Independent, Web. 23 Nov 2009. <>.

External links

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