Another elderly pro-life activist sentenced to two years in prison

March for Life 2024 Pro-life activists protest the incarceration of nine activists charged with FACE Act violations. | Credit: Photo by Tyler Arnold

Paulette Harlow, an elderly woman with a debilitating medical condition, was sentenced to 24 months in jail Friday after being convicted last November of participating in a pro-life blockade of a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic in 2020.

Harlow, 75, of Kingston, Massachusetts, was convicted under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and of a civil rights conspiracy, a statute that prohibits the violation of someone’s rights guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution and law.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

Harlow was sentenced by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the same judge who presided over and sentenced each of the other eight protesters who were found guilty in the case.

Unlike some of her co-defendants, Harlow was allowed to remain on house arrest pending sentencing because of her health issues, her lawyer, Allen Orenberg, told CNA last November.

At the time, Orenberg declined to specify about Harlow’s health issues. Orenberg could not be reached for comment Friday.

The D.C. blockade

The blockade of the Washington Surgi-Clinic was filmed by 42-year-old Josh Darnel, one of the protesters who was also convicted and is serving 34 months in prison.

In the over one-hour and 30-minute video of the protest, some of those who sat inside the clinic can be seen chained together, praying the rosary and singing hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary while refusing to leave when asked by police.

“Pro-life rescuers are entering the doors of an abortion clinic and saving babies from death. This is very risky for the rescuers, but it’s about time we got serious about ending abortion again,” a description of the video reads.

The DOJ released a statement Friday saying: “As the evidence at trial showed, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.”

“As part of the conspiracy, many of the defendants traveled to Washington, D.C., from various northeast and midwestern states to meet with Lauren Handy and participate in a clinic blockade that was directed by Handy and was broadcast on Facebook,” the statement said. 

The pro-life protesters “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes,” the statement said. 

In addition to Harlow and Darnel, Harlow’s sister Jean Marshall, 74, was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Also sentenced: Heather Idoni, 59 (24 months in prison); Lauren Handy, 30; John Hinshaw, 69; William Goodman, 54 (27 months in prison); Joan Bell, 76 (27 months in prison); and Herb Geraghty, 27 (27 months in prison). 

Smith, 34, pleaded guilty to a felony FACE Act charge in March last year and was given a sentence of 10 months in prison.

Handy was given the most severe penalty of four years and nine months in prison. Hinshaw was given the least prison time. He pleaded not guilty and received a sentence of 21 months in prison.

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