Five pro-life supporters were taken into custody Tuesday after a Washington, D.C. jury found them guilty of violating a federal law that prohibits individuals from interfering with access to abortion clinics.
The pro-life activists are currently jailed in a D.C. prison awaiting sentencing, where they face up to 11 years in federal prison.
The jury found the activists – Laruen Handy, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, John Hinshaw and Herb Geraghty – guilty of violating the FACE Act (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act) and conspiracy against “rights.”
The FACE Act under 18 U.S. Code § 248 says:
[Whoever] by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person because that person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services [violates federal law].
The charges stem from a “rescue and protest” action the pro-life supporters took in 2020 when the activists entered late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s Washington, D.C.-based clinic. During the event, some protesters knelt in prayer while others passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women. Others roped and chained themselves together inside the clinic.
According to the Thomas More Society, the legal organization representing the defendants in the case, Lauren Handy participated in the action after viewing an undercover video published by Live Action. The video depicted “horrible live-birth abortions – i.e., the refusal of care after the child survives an abortion – [that Lauren] reasonably believes occur inside Santangelo’s abortion facility.”
The defense lawyers further argued to the jury that Handy believed she was attempting to prevent the abortionist from leaving babies to die following failed abortion attempts, an action which, they argued, would not violate the FACE Act.
On the same day as the jury conviction, the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to the Daily Signal that Santangelo and his abortion clinic are under investigation. Santangelo performs abortions on preborn babies up to 26 weeks of pregnancy.
In a statement to the Daily Citizen, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon said they will be appealing the jury verdict.
“We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome,” Cannon said, adding, “Ms. Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings.”
“We are preparing an appeal and will continue to defend those who fight for life against a Biden Department of Justice that seems intent on prosecuting those who decry abortion and present it as it is – the intentional killing of children in utero.”
Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Steve Crampton added:
In an unexpected twist, the Court found that because the violation of FACE – in this case – was a crime of “violence,” all five defendants must be immediately incarcerated. So, the defendants were led out of the courtroom by an army of U.S. Marshals. This is an outrage, and the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent.
A day after the jury verdict was issued, defense attorneys filed an emergency motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting it reconsider its order detaining Lauren Handy and the other activists while they await sentencing.
“Under federal statute and binding precedents from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, the FACE Act is not categorically a ‘crime of violence,’ and should not lead to pre-sentencing detention,” the Thomas More Society said.
A ruling on the emergency motion has not yet been issued.
In response to the jury verdict, pro-life advocate Lila Rose tweeted the following:
Praying for the five brave young activists sitting in jail today – facing up to a decade in prison, separated from family, all because they peacefully dared to stand up to Cesare Santangelo’s butcher shop which murdered full term infants.
Madness what we’ve come to.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 30, 2023
The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) prosecution of these five pro-life activists should come as no surprise.
On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement saying the DOJ “strongly disagree[d]” with the court’s ruling, calling it a “devastating blow to reproductive freedom.”
“The Justice Department will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” the attorney general said, adding the department would use the FACE Act to protect access to abortion clinics.
Shortly thereafter, the DOJ began going after various pro-life supporters, including the since-acquitted Mark Houck, while practically ignoring the dozens of attacks on Catholic churches and pregnancy resource centers by pro-abortion activists since Roe was overturned.
It’s frightening when a nation’s principal law enforcement agency decides to place its thumb on the political scale, using its immense power and legal prowess to prosecute pro-life supporters.
Please pray for Lauren Handy and the four other pro-life activists in this case. Pray justice would be done and pray for all women considering aborting their babies – especially those who may be visiting Santangelo’s abortion clinic.
The case is United States of America v. Handy, et al.
If you are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy and want to learn more about your options, visit My Choice Network.
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