Pro-Life Activist Gets Sentenced for 2020 D.C. Abortion Clinic Protest


An eighth pro-life activist received a sentence under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights” for their involvement in an abortion clinic protest in Washington, DC, in October 2020.

Last week, seven other pro-life activists were sentenced to federal prison for staging a protest at the Washington Surgi-Clinic, known for its late-term abortions. Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) activist Lauren Handy, 30, received a 57-month federal prison sentence, credited for nine months already served. John Hinshaw, 69, was sentenced to 21 months, and William Goodman, 54, to 27 months, both with credit for time served, per the DOJ:

In late May, 75-year-old activist Paulette Harlow is set for sentencing. Heather Idoni is also scheduled for a July sentencing on separate FACE Act charges related to another abortion clinic protest in Tennessee, according to the DOJ. A tenth activist, Jay Smith, was sentenced to ten months in prison in March 2023.

House Republicans sent a letter to the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressing concerns about allegations that Marshall and Idoni faced mistreatment while jailed awaiting sentencing.

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) charged the pro-life activists with conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act in March 2022 due to the protest, which could result in up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines. The nine activists, excluding Smith, were convicted in two separate trials in August and September 2023 and were held in jail awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors argued that the activists used chains and locks to blockade the clinic, resulting in a nurse’s injury and obstructing access to the clinic’s entrance.

“Some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo’s facility, some distributed pro-life literature and counseled abortion-seeking women, and others chained themselves inside the clinic,” stated Handy’s attorneys from the Thomas More Society, who have also represented pro-life activists Mark Houck and David Daleiden.

The charges coincided with PAAU’s founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac and Handy’s claim of discovering the remains of around 115 aborted infants in a waste box from the Washington Surgi-Clinic. They alleged five might have been partially aborted or killed post-birth, breaching federal law. The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia reported investigating the discovery but not Dr. Cesare Santangelo, the clinic’s abortionist.

Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has notably pursued more pro-life activists under the FACE Act than pro-abortion activists. FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged in November 2022 that around 70% of abortion-related threats of violence since Dobbs have targeted pro-life groups.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated in December during the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary that the overturning of Roe v.Wade heightened the “urgency” of DOJ’s efforts, including enforcing the FACE Act to ensure access to reproductive services.

Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta speaks during an event with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware (AP Photo/Susan Walsh).

Out of many attacks on pregnancy centers since the Dobbs leak, only a few pro-abortion activists have been arrested, in states like Florida, New York, and Ohio.

Responding to Republican questions in March 2023 regarding the perceived enforcement imbalance, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated more pro-life activists are prosecuted because they commit crimes “during the daylight,” whereas pro-abortion activists typically act at night.

Pro-life activists and some Republicans have called for the FACE Act’s repeal, arguing the Biden administration frequently misuses the 1994 law against its political adversaries.

Katherine Hamilton
Katherine Hamilton
Politics reporter. Covering Life and Liberty.

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