Director of Operation Rescue Also Charged

WASHINGTON, D.C. -The Justice Department filed a civil suit under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) against Operation Rescue and various individuals who allegedly blocked the entrances of several women's clinics in Ohio.

The complaint, filed in Dayton, stems from actions during a week long campaign organized by Operation Rescue to oppose abortion entitled "The Return to Truth" from July 13-19, 1997. The government is seeking an order preventing the anti-a defendants, including the leader of Operation Rescue, and several unnamed defendants from blocking access to reproductive health clinics anywhere in the country and from coming within a certain distance of the Ohio clinics. "Congress passed the clinic access law to protect every woman's constitutional right to reproductive health services," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "Today's case underscores our commitment to enforce the law." According to the complaint, the defendants blocked three Ohio clinics - in Kettering, Dayton, and Cincinnati - by sitting and standing in front of their entrances. The entrances were effectively rendered impassible. In Kettering and Cincinnati, defendants left only when police started or appeared ready to make arrests. In Dayton, defendants blocked the clinic for almost an entire day. The complaint asks the court to issue an order preventing the defendants from coming within a certain distance of the clinics and from obstructing or interfering with or encouraging others to obstruct or interfere with access to reproductive health clinics. The Department is also seeking civil penalties and monetary damages. The individuals named in the complaint are: Philip (Flip) Benham; Rusty L. Thomas; Bryan S. Kemper; David Mehaffie; James F. Anderson; Frank L. Baltes; Roger L. Hall; Heather F. Mechanic; Olivia A. Alaw, and other individuals known as Jane and John Does.

Benham is currently in jail in connection with an anti-abortion demonstration outside a Lynchburg, Virginia high Today's suit is the fifteenth civil action filed by the Justice Department under FACE, which was signed by President Clinton in May of 1994. The law forbids anyone from using force, threat of force or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate or interfere with a person obtaining or providing reproductive health services. It allows the Justice Department to ask a court to prevent people from blocking clinics and harming those who seek or provide reproductive health care.

The Women's Medical Center of Cincinnati is located at 3219 Jefferson Avenue in Cincinnati, the Women's Medical Center of Kettering is located at 1401 East Stroop Street in Kettering, and the Dayton Women's Clinic is located at 1829 North Main Street in Dayton. An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

# # #