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Eight indicted for blocking access to MI reproductive health clinics

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
Unsplash/Adobe Stock

A federal indictment has charged eight people with blocking access to a Michigan clinic that performs abortions in 2020, describing the action as part of a conspiracy to “oppress and intimidate” patients and staff at the Northland Family Planning Clinic in Sterling Heights.

According to the indictment, defendant Chester Gallagher used social media to promote and livestream the blockade, which was also recorded by at least one other defendant. The group then “physically obstructed the patient entrance,” telling one patient “we’re not letting anybody in.” They also blocked the clinic owner and at least one employee from entering.

The group was eventually removed by Sterling Heights Police. But according to the indictment, their actions violated federal civil rights, law as well as the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

According to a Michigan Radio review of court records, several of the defendants have faced the same or similar charges in other places including Tennessee and Washington, D.C. Two of the eight defendants charged in this indictment also now face charges for a similar action at the Women’s Health Clinic in Saginaw in 2021.

The Biden Administration has stepped up enforcement of the FACE Act within the past year, as part of a larger effort to preserve abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. Abortion remains legal in Michigan, protected under the state constitution, after voters passed Proposal 3 last fall.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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