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A Clinton-appointed judge could throw five peaceful opponents of America's abortion regime in prison for up to 11 years and slap each of them with a $350,000 fine after a D.C. jury found them guilty Tuesday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act and of felony conspiracy against rights. Until their sentencing, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will have the pro-life rescuers sit in jail.
The newly convicted pro-life advocates are members of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, a leftist group that manages some rare consistency in its discussion of victimhood, acknowledging that there may be no group today more oppressed than the unborn.
According to its website, PAAU is "committed to the progressive feminist values of equality, non-violence, and nondiscrimination through an anti-capitalist lens. ... We're committed to unparalleled bravery and to always challenging the oppressive status quo. We're committed to ending elective abortion to matter how long it takes."
Lauren Handy, 29, the group's director of activism and mutual aid, and four others — John Hinshaw, 68; Heather Idoni, 58; William Goodman, 52; and Herb Geraghty, 27 — were convicted on all counts Tuesday for supposedly blocking access in 2020 to the Washington Surgi-Clinic, operated by the infamous late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo, reported the Washington Post.
The FACE Act prohibits anyone from obstructing the entrance to an abortion clinic or intimidating or interfering with a woman attempting to have her unborn baby exterminated.
The Heritage Foundation noted that "Congress specified that the FACE Act doesn't 'prohibit any expressive conduct (including peaceful picketing or other peaceful demonstration) protected from legal prohibitions by the First Amendment to the Constitution,' including the 'free speech or free exercise clauses,' occurring 'outside a facility.'"
Nevertheless, Kollar-Kotelly prevented the defendants from arguing that their protest was protected by the First Amendment or was committed in defense of a third person, stressing that "a defendant may not don a vigilante's hood."
Biden's admittedly pro-abortion Department of Justice noted that the defendants "conspired to and did forcefully enter the clinic and block access to the clinic using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes. ... Evidence also showed that the defendants violated the FACE Act by using force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with the clinic's employees and patients."
The Thomas More Society, which defended Handy in the case, alternatively characterized the incident as a "rescue and protest," noting that "some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo's facility, some passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women, and others roped and chained themselves together inside the facility."
The term "rescue" was key to Handy's defense, since she was under the distinct impression, in part due to an undercover video published by Live Action, that Santangelo was not just executing live-birth abortions but leaving born-alive infants to die.
Handy and other members of PAAU would later obtain the remains of 115 slaughtered babies that had been discarded by Santangelo's clinic from a driver for Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services. At least five of the babies appeared to have been viable, ostensibly confirming Handy's earlier suspicions, reported the National Catholic Register.
Handy noted in court on Aug. 22, "My belief that was formed after watching the video was … if the fetus survived the abortion attempt, they were left to die" at the clinic.
The Clinton judge, who castigated a nun in the public gallery for daring to make the sign of the cross, prevented the defense from showing the undercover 2012 footage in court, claiming that it was a "propaganda" video that would prejudice the jury, reported WUSA9.
The Thomas More Society maintains that "contrary to what the federal government’s prosecution attempted to argue, Lauren was there to prevent the horror of live-birth abortions — which is not a violation of the FACE Act."
At most, the pro-life advocates' defense attorneys indicated their clients were guilty of trespassing.
Handy's attorney, Martin Cannon, told the jury, "There was never an attempt to obstruct. At one point, you saw Ms. Handy holding the door open for the patients," adding she "never pushed or threatened anyone. ... Planning an event is not a conspiracy."
Prosecutors focused much of their ire on Handy, stressing that she had masterminded the blockade, used a fake name to book an appointment and get inside, and worked to bar patients' entry, reported the Post.
"They planned their crime carefully, to take over that clinic, block access to reproductive services and interfere with others’ rights," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb alleged in his closing arguments. "The idea of deliberately breaking the law, to them, was sexy."
The Clinton judge had the five defendants locked up immediately after their conviction in light of the jurors' suggestion that they were somehow violent criminals. Handy and the other pro-life advocates will remain in custody as they await sentencing.
Steve Crampton, senior counsel with the Thomas More Society, told LifeSiteNews that the immediate incarceration of the pro-life advocates due to the supposed "violence" of their crime was an "outrage," adding that "the real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure."
Cannon, Handy's attorney, underscored that the outcome was disappointing, stating, "Ms. Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, something she should never have been arrested for. 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."
Goodman, among the defendants, called for his supporters to "forgive the jury, the judge, and all those who witnessed against us, and to pray that they would see how God loves the gift of every human life."
The pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America noted in a statement obtained by TheBlaze, "This is a shameful day for a nation founded on unalienable rights, first and foremost including life. Pro-life advocates like Lauren Handy have put their freedom on the line – peacefully and bravely – to protect babies and women from the brutality of abortion. They have done a vital public service in exposing the horrors of late-term abortion taking place in D.C., where there are no limits on abortion up to birth, and across the country."
"Instead of being recognized for their heroism, the most pro-abortion administration in history has weaponized the full power of the federal government against them – treating them like terrorists and threatening them with as many as 11 years in prison, all while the authorities turn a blind eye to Santangelo's atrocities," continued SBA. "The extreme pro-abortion bias on display throughout this trial – for instance, donors to abortion giant Planned Parenthood permitted to serve on the jury – shows that they were never going to get a fair hearing in Judge Kollar-Kotelly's court. Wherever one stands on abortion, we should all be able to agree this is wrong and un-American."
Caroline Taylor Smith, the executive director of PAAU, indicated the convictions won't stop the group's pro-life advocacy, stating on X, "Rescue lives on. The unborn have a right to be Rescued. Abortion is murder, and we are going to act like it, no matter the consequences, with solidarity and courage."
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.