DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the vandalism of an Iowa crisis pregnancy center and offering a $15,000 reward to anyone that offers information that helps them catch the vandals.
Last summer, Agape Pregnancy Resource Center in Des Moines faced several attacks of vandalism, including broken windows and spray paint on doors and windows.
The center provides screening for pregnancy as well as for sexually transmitted diseases and infections. For those who are pregnant, the center offers coaching services, ultrasounds, and parenting classes. The center does not list abortion as a service.
According to a press release, there were two separate incidences in 2022 where the clinic faced vandalism at their location on Martin Luther King Drive, once on June 3 and then a second incident on July 4. Both incidents took place in the early morning hours and included spray paint vandalism along with broken windows. The spray paint included terms such as “Fake Clinic” and “Abortion 4ever”.
At one point, an organization called Jane’s Revenge took credit for the damage to the clinic on June 3, 2022.
The FBI is now seeking help in finding the perpetrators of the vandalism incidents.
In Iowa, vandalism is often considered a misdemeanor as part of the statute of criminal mischief, meaning it is punishable by less than two years in jail, a fine, and in some cases, paying for damages. In order for vandalism to be a felony by state law, there must be damage worth at least $1,500 or the damage must be done to public property.
When asked why the FBI is investigating the vandalism, the FBI told KCAU 9 that they are pursuing the vandals under the federal law of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Violation of the FACE Act brings with it a fine of up to $10,000 and a sentence of up to six months in a federal prison.
Often the FACE Act is thought of as an act to protect those who are receiving abortions from those who may try to use violence to stop them. However, the FBI notes on a webpage explaining the FACE Act that this is just one example of how the act can be violated.
“The FACE Act is not about abortions,” the Department of Justice explains on its website.
According to National Abortion Federation, the FACE Act was passed in 1994 in response to a wave of protests which included acts of violence for blocking clinic entrances at abortion clinics. A doctor was killed in March of 1993 outside of a clinic and a few months later someone attempted to assassinate an abortion doctor in Kansas.
The law forbids three specific acts. The first is using force, threat of force or physical obstruction to interfere with a person or class of persons from obtaining reproductive health services. The act also forbids the use of force, threat of force or physical obstruction preventing someone from worshiping their religion at a place of religious worship.
It is the third tenet of the law, which forbids the intentional damage or destruction of a place of reproductive freedom or religious worship, that the FBI seems to be using to go after the vandals of the pregnancy center.
The statute allows also for life sentences in the cases of where a person uses violence, the threat of violence, intimidation or blocking to keep a person from entering a place protected by the law and this results in a person’s death. There are also enhanced penalties when violence causes serious bodily harm.
Under the definitions in the statute reproductive health services include abortions but also general services related to pregnancy including medical, surgical, and counseling services. The act protects hospitals, clinics, physician offices, and any other facility where reproductive services are obtained.
In addition, on its website, the FBI explicitly states that “Pro-life counseling services” are protected under the FACE Act.
The FBI is offering a $15,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible for the vandalism. The penalty for a nonviolent offense of the FACE Act is up to six months in prison or a fine of $10,000.