UPDATE: Washington pro-life activists sentenced to years in prison under FACE Act

Lauren Handy Pro-life activist Lauren Handy listens during a news conference on the five fetuses found inside the home where she and other anti-abortion activists were living on Capitol Hill at a news conference at the Hyatt Regency on April 5, 2022, in Washington, D.C. | Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Two pro-life activists were sentenced to years in prison in a Washington, D.C., district court today for their involvement in a “rescue” at a local abortion clinic. 

Lauren Handy, 30, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for organizing the rescue. John Hinshaw, 69, was sentenced to a year and nine months.

Attorneys from the Thomas More Society who are representing Handy said they will appeal her conviction. 

This comes nearly nine months after Handy, Hinshaw, and seven other pro-life activists were convicted on felony charges of conspiracy against rights and violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for their involvement in an October 2020 rescue at the Washington Surgi-Clinic run by Dr. Cesare Santangelo. Both Handy and Hinshaw were immediately incarcerated and have been in prison since their conviction.

The sentences were ordered by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who chided Handy for prioritizing her activism above the “needs” of women, according to local news outlet WUSA9

“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.”

According to a previous DOJ statement, the activists involved in the rescue 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.”

The DOJ also said the activists “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes.”

Handy is best known as one of the activists who in 2022 discovered the remains of five late-term aborted babies, known as “the D.C. five,” outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic.

Handy’s group, the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), claims that some of these babies bore signs that they were killed in partial-birth abortions, which is illegal under federal law. Despite requests by multiple members of Congress, the office of the D.C. medical examiner has refused to allow any independent investigation into the babies’ deaths. 

Steve Crampton, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, responded to the ruling by saying that “Ms. Handy’s 57-month sentence is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple.” 

“As I’ve gotten to know Ms. Handy, I’ve seen up close her unwavering passion for pro-life advocacy and resolute dedication to nonviolence,” he went on. “But this fight is far from over, and we eagerly look forward to appealing for Ms. Handy and her co-defendants’ freedom, so that the FACE Act can never again be weaponized by the Department of Justice against its ideological opponents.”

In a statement released shortly before her sentencing, Handy said: “I am at peace with myself and my future. I will go into court with my head held high and heart open.”

“Yes, this time has been challenging, but I refuse to be jaded. Why? Because life goes on... even in jail,” she said. “So I might as well continue to love and cry and scream and dance. That is joy. The feeling of being fully alive without shame. Which is something no court can take from me.” 

The eight other activists — John Hinshaw, William Goodman, Herb Geraghty, Jonathan Darnel, Jean Marshall, Joan Bell, Heather Idoni, and Paulette Harlow — are set to receive their sentences over the next few days.

Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the FACE Act prohibits obstructing access to or destruction of abortion clinics, pregnancy centers, or church property. The law has been criticized by several lawmakers for being unevenly applied against pro-lifers.

This story was updated at 5:59 p.m. ET to include the information on John Hinshaw’s sentencing.

More in US

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.