The trial of six pro-life activists, accused by the Biden administration of violating the FACE Act and civil rights conspiracy during a 2021 protest outside a Tennessee abortion facility, commenced in federal court in Nashville. The demonstrators, including Chet Gallagher, Coleman Boyd, Heather Idoni, Cal Zastrow, Paul Vaughn, and Dennis Green, are facing charges for a peaceful protest held outside the Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mount Juliet.
The group gathered in the clinic’s hallway, engaging in prayer, hymns, and conversations with women entering the facility, advocating against abortions. Local police dispersed the crowd, resulting in 11 arrests for trespassing. In October 2022, the Justice Department pursued charges against the activists, alleging a conspiracy to obstruct women from accessing reproductive health care and violating federal law.
If convicted, the pro-lifers could face up to 11 years in prison and fines of $250,000. The trial, which began with jury selection, involves defendants from various states. The federal government, in its opening statement, accused the activists of planning to block clinic doors, emphasizing that the demonstration was a violation of federal law, not a protest.
Lawyers for the defendants countered, asserting the peaceful nature of the protest and the absence of threats or violence. Steve Crampton, representing Paul Vaughn, described the protest as a “nonviolent, peaceful exercise.” Mount Juliet police officer Lance Scheider testified that while the demonstrators disrupted business, they were not violent, offering no physical resistance.
Outside the courthouse, pro-life supporters gathered to sing the Christian hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” The trial, considered a significant turning point in pro-life history, has drawn attention, particularly due to the FBI’s aggressive raid on Paul Vaughn’s home, involving guns pointed at his family, as he recalled in an interview with the Daily Signal. The trial is being held in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, overseen by Judge Aleta Trauger, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998.