The Justice Department announced an agreement today with a former Bergen County man to resolve a federal lawsuit for his alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
The FACE Act protects the right to access and provide reproductive health services, including abortion.
The FACE Act prohibits anyone from using force, threats of force or physical obstruction against any person seeking or providing reproductive health services.
The complaint filed against Daniel Courney, 38, formerly of Bergenfield, New Jersey, alleges that the self-described Christian missionary violated the FACE Act on two occasions in October 2021.
In both instances, according to the complaint, Courney used physical force against a patient escort at a health clinic in Englewood, New Jersey, to attempt to prevent the volunteer from assisting individuals seeking the clinic’s services.
An ordinance adopted by the city in 2014 created buffer zones around certain health care facilities, including Metropolitan Medical Associates, an abortion clinic on Engle Street. The buffer barred the public from an area within 8 feet of clinic entrances.
United States District Judge Susan Wigenton dismissed a lawsuit challenging the buffer zones on Aug. 12 and determined that the city’s ordinance is constitutional after years of litigation with anti-abortion zealots who alleged that their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly were being infringed.
On Oct. 16, 2021, Courney approached a patient and her companion arriving by car to seek reproductive health services at a clinic in Englewood.
As a volunteer was providing directions, Courney approached the vehicle, told the patient to “save your child,” and shoved the volunteer away from the car to prevent the volunteer from providing directions to the clinic.
On Oct. 30, 2021, Courney approached the same volunteer as the volunteer escorted a patient inside the clinic.
As the volunteer and patient approached the clinic’s front door, Courney moved his body between the volunteer and the patient and shoved the volunteer toward the street.
The proposed consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, orders Courney to stay away from the clinic permanently, prohibits future FACE Act violations and requires him to pay a monetary penalty.
A Superior Court judge in March 2021, ordered Courney not to return to Metropolitan Medical Associates on Engle Street as a condition of his release after city police charged him with stalking the doctor.
He was back Friday morning — and recorded it on Facebook.
Courney was once convicted in England for using “threatening and discriminatory language” against a Muslim woman, calling her “ISIS” and telling her to “go back to your country.”
“Access to reproductive healthcare is a fundamental right,” said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. “Individuals must be able to access facilities like the Englewood clinic to make decisions about their own bodies, health and futures, in consultation with health care providers.”
“Those providers are entitled to offer services free from the threat of violence against them,” said Sellinger. “Our office remains committed to the enforcement of the FACE Act throughout the District of New Jersey to protect these important rights. We encourage anyone with information about potential FACE Act violations to contact our office.”
“Reproductive health care providers must be free to carry out their work free from interference or intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to enforcing federal law to protect providers and all people seeking access to reproductive health care across our nation.”
The Justice Department is committed to the protection of reproductive rights and recently announced the formation of its Reproductive Rights Task Force to protect those rights nationwide.
Anyone in New Jersey may report potential FACE Act violations or other threats to reproductive freedom by calling the Civil Rights Hotline, 855-281-3339, or by submitting an online complaint here.