Pro-Life Activist Lauren Handy Sentenced to Nearly 5 Years in Prison for Abortion Clinic Protest

Lauren Handy, a member of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, wears a cape as an anti-abor
Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Pro-life activist Lauren Handy was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison, as well as three years of supervised release, on Tuesday for seeking to prevent abortions by blocking the entrance of a Washington, DC, abortion clinic in 2020.

Handy, 30, was convicted last year by a D.C. federal jury, along with several other pro-life activists, for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights” — charges which carried a potential sentence of up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines, according to President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ). Prosecutors requested for Handy — who has been in jail since her conviction — to be sentenced for up to six-and-a-half years. Handy’s attorneys with the pro-life Thomas More Society requested a more lenient 12-month sentence. Her sentence will include credit for time served.

Handy’s nine co-defendants are Jonathan Darnel, Jay Smith, John Hinshaw, William Goodman, Joan Bell, Paulette Harlow, Jean Marshall, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty. 

Fellow participant and pro-life activist John Hinshaw was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison under the Face Act on Tuesday. Smith was sentenced to 10 months last year, while Hinshaw, Idoni, and Goodman were scheduled for sentencing on Tuesday. Darnel Geragthy, Marshall, and Bell are supposed to be sentenced on Wednesday, and Harlow is to be sentenced on May 31, according to the Associated Press. 

“There was only one thing around which Ms. Handy and her co-defendants were unified, and that was nonviolence. They conspired to be peaceful. Yet, today, the Court granted the Biden Department of Justice its wish by sentencing Ms. Handy to 57 months—nearly 5 years in prison,” Thomas More Society senior counsel Martin Cannon said in a statement. 

“For her efforts to peacefully protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, Ms. Handy deserves thanks, not a gut-wrenching prison sentence,” Cannon continued. “We will vigorously pursue an appeal of Ms. Handy’s conviction and attack the root cause of this injustice, that is, the FACE Act—which we believe is unconstitutional and should never again be used to persecute peaceful pro-lifers.”

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjay Patel argued during the trial that Handy, who is an activist with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), designed the “invasion” into the Washington Surgi-Clinic in October of 2020, an abortion facility infamous for late-term abortions. According to WUSA 9, Handy and the other activists gained access to the clinic by scheduling an appointment under the name “Hazel Jenkins.” Prosecutors alleged that a clinic nurse sprained her ankle during the protest and that activists blocked a woman from entering the clinic. 

“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 the Handy’s attorneys from the Thomas More Society, which has represented other pro-life activists like Mark Houck and David Daleiden

WATCH: Leftist Pro-Life Activists Demand D.C. Mayor Investigate 5 Potential Infanticide Cases:

Matt Perdie / Breitbart News

In March of 2022, the DOJ charged Handy and eight others with conspiracy against rights and FACE Act offenses.” The DOJ charges occurred the same month that Handy and PAAU’s founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac allegedly discovered the remains of approximately 115 aborted babies in a waste box from the Washington Surgi-Clinic, five of whom they say may have been partially aborted or killed after birth in violation of federal law. The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia previously told Breitbart News that it was investigating the discovery of the babies but not the clinic’s abortionist, Dr. Cesare Santangelo.

RELATED: D.C. Examiner Halts Planned Disposal of Late-Term Aborted Babies After Pressure Campaign

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who presided over the trials, barred Handy’s attorneys from using a 2013 undercover video published by Live Action, in which Santangelo was allegedly recorded saying he would not assist a baby that is born alive in a botched abortion. Handy’s attorneys argued that video is “integral to understanding Lauren’s motive that day in October 2020.” Kollar-Kotelly also did not allow video or photo evidence of the 115 aborted babies to be used as evidence in the trail and prohibited defendants from arguing their actions were protected by the First Amendment or were committed in defense of a third person, unborn children.

Kollar-Kotelly reportedly said during sentencing that Handy and the other activists that their actions were uncaring toward women seeking abortions and called abortion a “human need[s].” 

“Neither you nor any of the other co-conspirators showed any compassion, empathy, toward those two women needing medical care,” Kollar-Kotelly said. “Your views took precedence over, frankly, their human needs.”

Handy sent PAAU a statement before sentencing on Tuesday morning, citing the joy that has sustained her while she has remained in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, awaiting sentencing.

“It has been close to 9 months since I was abruptly ripped from my community. This has led me to think long and hard on what to say about my sentencing today in federal court. Some drafts were angry and righteous while most were just a tearstained longing for my loved ones back home,” Handy said. 

“Yes, this time has been challenging but I refuse to be jaded. Why? Because life goes on… even in jail. So I might as well continue to love and cry and scream and dance,” she continued. “That is joy. The feeling of being fully alive without shame. Which is something no court can take from me. So today, I am at peace with myself and my future. I will go into court with my head held high and my heart open.”

Bukovinac slammed the Biden administration and the DOJ for reaching “a new level of tyranny.” 

“There is no other social justice movement in our nation whose activists are subject to years in federal prison for nonviolent resistance. This blatant viewpoint discrimination has incalculable consequences for babies, their parents, those who defend them, and for peaceful activists across movements worldwide. I continue to stand by Lauren and the other 8 defendants who risked their freedoms to stand in defense of the least of us,” she said. 

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 in November 2022 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.”

Out of dozens and dozens of attacks on pregnancy centers since the Dobbs leak, only a handful of pro-abortion activists have been arrested, including in FloridaNew York, and Ohio.

When questioned by Republicans in March of 2023 about the apparent enforcement discrepancy, Merrick Garland claimed more pro-life activists have been prosecuted because they commit crimes “during the daylight,” while pro-abortion activists tend to strike at night.

Activists in the pro-life movement and some Republicans have been calling for the repeal of the FACE Act, arguing that the Biden administration has repeatedly weaponized the 1994 law against its political opponents.

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


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