After police find aborted fetal remains at home of DC pro-life activist, group pledges full explanation

GETTY A red-brick row house (C) is seen where DC Metro Police said they found five fetuses inside where anti-abortion activists were living earlier this week in the Capitol Hill neighborhood on April 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. A red-brick row house (C) is seen where DC Metro Police said they found five fetuses inside where anti-abortion activists were living earlier this week in the Capitol Hill neighborhood on April 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. Nine people, some of whom lived or stayed in the house, were indicted Wednesday on federal civil rights counts, with prosecutors alleging that they violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act when they blockaded an abortion clinic with chain and rope in 2020. Authorities do not know how the fetuses were obtained or how they got into the home where anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy was staying before she was arrested. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Police on Wednesday found the remains of at least five aborted fetuses at the Washington, D.C. home of activist Lauren Handy, who is affiliated with the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, a secular organization that demonstrates against abortion. 

Though it is not immediately clear who has legal responsibility for the remains, PAAU says a member of their group “​​privately arranged” for police to pick up the remains for “forensic examination,” fearing that the babies were aborted illegally. 

Metropolitan police said they searched the home March 30 following a tip on potential “biohazard material.” The unborn children, who police said were “aborted in accordance with D.C. law,” were collected by Washington’s medical examiner and the investigation into how the remains ended up in the apartment is ongoing, police said. 

PAAU is a relatively new group created and led by Terrisa Bukovinac, the founder and president of Pro-Life San Francisco and former president of Democrats For Life. 

CNA contacted PAAU to ask why and how the remains were being stored at Handy’s home and who has legal responsibility for the remains, among other questions. CNA was informed that the group does not plan to comment publicly until a press conference set to be held April 5. 

However, an online statement from PAAU says that the fetuses came from “whistleblowers” and that the group believes that the babies may have been aborted in violation of federal laws against partial-birth abortion and infanticide. 

They said the “whistleblowers who received the fetuses” will be present at the Tuesday press conference. At least five fetuses were recovered by the police, though PAAU hinted that they have more fetuses in their possession that have not been turned over to police. 

“Their late gestational ages as well as their apparent sustained injuries potentially show violations of the Partial Birth Abortion Act as well as the Born Alive Infants Protection Act which are federal crimes,” the statement says.  

The group also said that a funeral Mass and “naming ceremony” for the fetuses was held. PAAU has not yet commented on whether it will be possible for the fetuses to be given a dignified burial.

Handy is a Catholic convert who has been involved in pro-life activism, including sidewalk counseling to encourage women not to enter abortion clinics, for several years. 

A 2017 report from EWTN Pro-life Weekly shows Handy praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the rosary outside a clinic, and lauding the “power of prayer” in helping women reconsider getting an abortion. That year she said she had saved “close to 500” babies from abortion through her encounters with women at abortion clinics, and had been arrested several times for her activism. 

Handy was, along with eight other protestors, charged this week for apparent violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act during a protest at the Washington Surgi-Center abortion clinic in 2020, which one of the protestors streamed live on Facebook. 

The FACE Act prohibits the obstruction, intimidation, or injury of those seeking abortion, though it expressly does not prohibit peaceful protests.

The U.S. Department of Justice charged the protestors with conspiracy against rights, and with violations of the FACE Act, following Attorney General Merrick Garland’s vow to enforce the FACE Act in September 2021. At issue, according to the DOJ, was the protestors' use of “their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes” to “blockade” the clinic doors. 

If convicted, the protestors could each face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of $350,000, prosecutors said.

Ahead of PAAU’s October 2021 launch, Bukovinac explained to CNA that her group is “an uprising of grassroots activists” who are “looking to organize blue cities across America” against abortion. She said she opted for the phrase “anti-abortion” in the group’s name, instead of “pro-life,” because “In more left-leaning circles, sometimes the phrase ‘pro-life’ has become a little meaningless.”

Bukovinac has described the group as “a single-issue organization…we are opposed to abortion.” 

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Bukovinac, an atheist, said another goal of PAAU is to highlight the existence of pro-life activists who do not consider themselves religious or right-leaning; she has written on non-religious reasons to oppose abortion. 

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