More Pro-Life Activists Sentenced to Years Behind Bars, Including Veteran, Two Women in Their 70s

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Lauren Handy (C) joins fellow anti-abortion demonstrators to rall
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Seven pro-life activists were sentenced to years in federal prison on Tuesday and Wednesday for protesting at the Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, DC, in 2020, an abortion clinic infamous for late-term abortions.

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) brought conspiracy against rights and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act charges against nine pro-life activists for the protest, which carried a maximum prison sentence of 11 years and $350,000 in fines. The activists were found guilty in two separate trials in August and September of 2023 and have been in jail ever since, awaiting sentencing.

The FACE Act “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services,” while conspiracy against rights — a charge that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence — “makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the United States in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States or because of his or her having exercised such a right,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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On Tuesday, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) activist Lauren Handy, 30, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison with credit for the nine months she has already spent in jail.

John Hinshaw, 69, was also sentenced on Tuesday to 21 months in prison, and William Goodman, 54, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, both with credit for time served, according to the DOJ.

On Wednesday, 42-year-old Jonathan Darnel, an Iraq war veteran who served two tours, was sentenced to 34 months behind bars with credit for time served. Herb Geraghty, a 27-year-old pro-life atheist, was sentenced to 27 months in prison with credit for time served.

Jean Marshall, 74, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and Joan Bell, 76, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, according to the DOJ.

“At sentencing she provided a Dr’s note indicating she’s in need of a hip replacement due to extreme osteoporosis,” PAAU’s founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac said of Marshall in a post to X. “The feds said that hip replacement surgery is elective and wanted a harsher sentence.”

“Pro-Life Rescue ICON Joan Andrews Bell has been sentenced to 27 months in prison under FACE,” Bukovinac added. “Her family cried tears of joy that the sentence wasn’t longer. Joan told the judge she will not cooperate with the terms of her probation after her release.”

Two more activists, Paulette Harlow, 75, and Heather Idoni, 59, are scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Idoni is also scheduled for sentencing in July for different FACE Act charges related to a different abortion clinic protest in Tennessee, according to the DOJ. A tenth activist, Jay Smith, was sentenced to ten months in prison in March of 2023.

Prosecutors argued that the activists organized a blockade and used chains and locks to barricade the abortion clinic. In the process, prosecutors alleged that a nurse was injured and women were unable to access the clinic through the front entrance.

“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.

The DOJ charges occurred the same month that Handy and 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 trial 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’ 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.”

During sentencing Darnel said he was “proud of the courage” of his codefendants, according to Live Action News.

“I maintain that abortion is highly immoral and it is illegal. I took an oath as a captain to obey orders and as a Christian to love my neighbor, and I hope in some way I am accomplishing both,” he 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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