Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Pro-life activists found guilty of obstructing abortion clinic access in DC

Five pro-life advocates who entered a Washington, D.C., abortion facility as part of a “rescue” in October 2020 were convicted of felony charges Tuesday afternoon, a ruling that at least one activist plans to appeal.

All five defendants, including 28-year-old Director of Activism for the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) Lauren Handy, were convicted of felony conspiracy against rights and felony violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Each person could face up to 11 years in prison and a fine up to $350,000.

The FACE Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. It prohibits individuals from accosting or obstructing women seeking abortions at abortion clinics as well as the destruction or defacement of abortion clinics themselves.

In addition to Handy, 67-year-old John Hinshaw, 61-year-old Heather Idoni, 52-year-old William Goodman, and 25-year-old Herb Geraghty were convicted.

The Department of Justice claims the activists engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the Cesare Santangelo abortion facility and prevent the clinic from offering services. A news release from the DOJ stated that the activists used “physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient because they were providing or obtaining reproductive health services.”

According to the DOJ, four of the five activists who were convicted, along with others, “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes.” The news release added that the activities were livestreamed.

Handy, who organized the demonstration, testified in court that she viewed an undercover video of the facility released by the pro-life group Live Action that she believed showed abortionists refusing to offer care to a child who survived an abortion attempt. Her lawyers argued that Handy was not trying to halt reproductive health care but was instead motivated by her belief that illegal activities were taking place at the facility.

All five defendants were immediately incarcerated, though sentencing has yet to take place.


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