WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge has refused to dismiss charges against an anti-abortion protester who allegedly made a Planned Parenthood patient “visibly upset” with statements like, “Don’t let them kill your baby.”
Richard Retta is charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law prohibiting the use of intimidation or obstruction to interfere with people trying to get an abortion.
Retta, whom the Justice Department calls a “regular anti-abortion protestor at the Planned Parenthood in Metropolitan, Washington,” is accused of physically obstructing a patient from entering the clinic in January 2011.
The patient managed to access the clinic only because of the “extraordinary assistance” of clinic escorts and staff, according to the complaint.
Retta allegedly confronted the woman outside the clinic, and two escorts came to her aid when she became “visibly upset.” Prosecutors say Retta walked alongside the woman the entire length of the 35-foot walkway, shouting at the escorts. At one point, he positioned himself directly in front of the patient and yelled, “Don’t go in there. Don’t let them kill your baby,” the complaint states.
Retta moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the government did not plead that the woman was actually obtaining “reproductive services” or that the facility actually provided abortions, as required by the FACE Act. He also contended that the government failed to establish the requisite motive on his part.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied Retta’s motion on Tuesday, saying the government need only show that Retta believed the patient had sought reproductive services.
“Ultimately, the court concludes that the statute focuses on the defendant’s motive, not the target’s conduct,” the 12-page order reads. “A FACE Act complaint, therefore, need only contain allegations establishing that a defendant acted under the belief that his alleged victims were obtaining or providing reproductive health services; allegations that they were in fact doing so, accordingly are not required.”
Boasberg also ruled that the government can pursue statutory damages of $5,000 for Retta’s “victims,” the patient and the two escorts.