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DC pro-life activists face 11 years in prison for blocking clinic

Pro-life activists Randall Terry Lauren Handy, and Joan Andrews Bell

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images | AFP

John Burger - published on 09/03/23

Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, others incarcerated while awaiting sentencing because of "violent" violation of FACE law.

Five pro-life activists who were protesting a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic face 11 years in prison for violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

A jury in U.S. District Court on Tuesday found Lauren Handy, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, John Hinshaw and Herb Geraghty guilty of two felony counts each of conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act.

The New York Times reported that because “the jury found that the defendants acted with violent force, they were immediately taken into custody and held at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia.”

Steve Crampton, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, the law firm representing Handy, condemned that decision. 

“This is an outrage, and the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent,” Crampton said in a statement. “The real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure.”

Among the other defendants is Herb Geraghty of Pittsburgh, Executive Director of Rehumanize International, a human rights organization that says it follows a “consistent ethic of life” and is “dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life.”

Rehumanize International founder Aimee Murphy said in a statement that Geraghty has long been dedicated to “ending violence and promoting human dignity.” Murphy said she was “baffled when Herb’s life’s work at RI was not admitted into evidence (supposedly because it might be ‘too prejudicial’).”

During the trial, District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, barred the defendants from arguing that their actions were protected by the First Amendment or were committed in defense of a third person, according to WUSA-9

The blockade of the Washington Surgi-Clinic took place in 2020. Long-time anti-abortion activist Joan Andrews Bell, the wife of Good Counsel Homes director Chris Bell, and others also took part in the blockade. They will go to trial in September. [Photo above shows Handy, left, and Bell, at a press conference in 2022.]

Handy, an activist from Virginia who is part of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, had made an appointment under a false name, and when a clinic employee opened the door for her, other activists rushed out of a stairwell where they were hiding and forced their way into the clinic, planning to put chains and locks on themselves in order to keep people with appointments from entering. An ensuing struggle sent a clinic employee to the hospital with an ankle injury, according to WUSA-9

Another attorney at the Thomas More Society, Martin Cannon, said that Lauren Handy was “condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent pre-born human beings.”

“We are preparing an appeal and will continue to defend those who fight for life against a Biden Department of Justice that seems intent on prosecuting those who decry abortion and present it as it is — the intentional killing of children in utero,” Cannon said in a statement.

Handy is also under investigation for storing human fetuses in her home. She claimed on Twitter to be inspired to “liberate” fetal remains “from med [sic] waste companies and give them a proper burial,” according to The Guardian.

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