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News / Nation & World

Judge finds last 4 of 11 anti-abortion activists guilty in a 2021 Tennessee clinic blockade

By TRAVIS LOLLER, Associated Press
Published: April 4, 2024, 11:31am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The final four of 11 anti-abortion activists charged with blocking access to a Tennessee clinic in 2021 have been convicted of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, James Zastrow, and Paul Place were found guilty Tuesday by a federal judge in Nashville. They face up to six months in prison, five years of supervised release, and fines of up to $10,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.

The four participated in a blockade of the carafem reproductive health clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, a town 17 miles (27 kilometers) east of Nashville, nearly a year before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The event was organized by anti-abortion activists who used social media to promote and live-stream actions that they hoped would prevent the clinic from performing abortions, according to court documents.

At the time, abortion was still legal in Tennessee. It is now banned at all stages of pregnancy under a law with very narrow exemptions.

Prosecutors say the four people convicted on Tuesday positioned themselves directly in front of the main clinic door, physically blocking access to the clinic so that no patients were able to enter. Police asked them to leave or move multiple times, but they refused. After more than two hours, they were arrested.

Six other participants were convicted in January on more serious felony conspiracy charges for organizing and participating in the blockade. Chester Gallagher, Paul Vaughn, Heather Idoni, Calvin Zastrow, Coleman Boyd, and Dennis Green each face up 10 1/2 years in prison and fines of up to $260,000. Sentencing is scheduled for July 2.

One defendant, Caroline Davis, pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor charges related to the blockade and cooperated with prosecutors. She is scheduled for sentencing later this month.

President Bill Clinton signed the clinic access law in 1994 following a string of high-profile attacks against abortion clinics, which included the fatal shooting of Dr. David Gunn outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, in 1993 — the first abortion provider killed in the U.S.

This story has been corrected to show the defendants were convicted on Tuesday, not Wednesday.