Another D.C. Court Declines to Release Pro-Life Activist from Jail

Lauren Handy, a member of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, wears a cape as an anti-abortion demonstrator and abortion rights activist argue near the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2022. The court announced a ruling on a Mississippi abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade. (Eric Lee for The Washington …
Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied an emergency motion on Friday to release pro-life activist Lauren Handy from jail.

Handy and four other pro-life activists — Heather Idoni, William Goodman, Herb Geraghty, and John Hinshaw — were immediately taken to jail on August 29, after a Washington, DC, jury found them guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, as well as a conspiracy against rights for seeking to prevent abortions by blocking the entrance of the Washington Surgi-Clinic abortion facility in October of 2020. 

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who once proposed that a constitutional right to abortion may be found in the 13th Amendment because of its prohibition of “slavery nor involuntary servitude,” ordered the activists to be immediately taken to jail after the jury returned its verdict, deeming their violation of the FACE Act a “crime of violence.” Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, subsequently denied an emergency motion to release 29-year-old Handy.

Handy’s attorneys argued in their motion that the FACE Act is not categorically a “crime of violence” and should not lead to pre-sentencing detention. They also argued that releasing Handy before sentencing would pose no risk to the public. 

The Friday order denying the motion was issued by Circuit Judges Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee; Justin Walker, a Trump appointee strongly supported by Mitch McConnell; and Gregory Katsas, another Trump appointee. 

Katsas was the only judge to issue a separate concurring opinionAlthough it is very unusual for a judge to issue an opinion on the denial of an emergency motion, Katsas took the step of making it clear that he was not signaling any agreement with the Biden administration’s argument to keep Handy incarcerated. Instead, he went out of his way to say that he denied the emergency motion because Handy’s attorneys “failed to develop” their argument.

“In deciding this motion, we have no occasion to consider whether the FACE Act’s element of ‘force’ sweeps more broadly than the ‘physical force’ required for a crime of violence. That possibility arises because the common-law definition of ‘force’ encompasses even the ‘slightest offensive touching,’ whereas the crime-of-violence definition of ‘physical force’ requires ‘violent force’ — that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person,” Katsas wrote.

“So, if FACE Act ‘force’ tracks the broader common-law standard, then section 248(a)(1) is not a crime of violence. My vote to deny interim relief rests on Handy’s failure to develop this argument, rather than on any assessment of whether it is likely to succeed,” he continued.

Handy’s attorneys said they are “disappointed but not deterred,” and filed an expedited appeal, together with two of Handy’s other defendants.

Three more pro-life activists who were involved in the abortion clinic blockade, two of whom are over the age of 70, were found guilty on September 15 on the same charges and were also immediately incarcerated.  All eight of the pro-life activists face a potential “maximum sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ)

Another activist, 32-year-old Jay Smith, previously accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to ten months in prison, and activist Paulette Harlow, 73, is awaiting trial on similar charges, according to the Department of Justice.

“Some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo’s facility, some passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women, and others roped and chained themselves together inside the facility,” according to Handy’s attorneys.

The DOJ charged Handy and eight others for the 2020 incident five days after Handy, the director of activism for the left-wing pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), and PAAU’s former executive director and current Democratic presidential candidate Terrisa Bukovinac, allegedly discovered the remains of approximately 115 aborted babies in a waste box from the Washington Surgi-Clinic. They alleged that five of the babies they discovered may have been partially aborted or killed after birth in violation of federal law.

D.C. police told Breitbart News via email this month that the manner of discovery is still under investigation, not the methods of Washington Surgi-Clinic abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo.

WATCH: Leftist Pro-Life Activists Demand D.C. Mayor Investigate Five Potential Infanticide Cases:

Matt Perdie / Breitbart News

During the trial Judge Kollar-Kotelly notably barred Handy’s attorneys from entering photos of the remains as evidence at trial. She also barred them from including a Live Action undercover video of Washington Surgi-Clinic abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo allegedly saying he would not assist a baby that is born alive in a botched abortion. Handy’s attorneys argued that the video has had a “lasting impact” on Handy’s decision to become a pro-life activist and is “integral to understanding Lauren’s motive that day in October 2020.” 

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has notably charged more pro-life activists under the FACE Act than pro-abortion activists, despite the fact that FBI director Christopher Wray admitted last November that approximately 70 percent of abortion-related threats of violence in the United States since the Dobbs decision have been against pro-life groups.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also admitted in December in remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary that the end of Roe v. Wade dialed up “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work, including the “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.” 

On Tuesday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced legislation to repeal the FACE Act, a federal law he says has been weaponized by President Joe Biden’s DOJ to target pro-life activists. The bill has 25 Republican cosponsors, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) will lead companion legislation in the Senate.

The case is United States v. Handy, No. 23-3143 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.