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More pro-lifers are convicted under the FACE Act and immediately jailed, including two women in their 70s


“[Incarceration isn’t] the end of your life or the end of your effectiveness. It’s just jail — a normative part of following God in a nation that hates Him.”


Three more pro-life protesters were convicted for “violence” under the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act on Friday, meaning they could spend up to 11 years in prison and be forced to pay a $350,000 fine.

Quick Facts

The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that the three are guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to “create a blockade” preventing access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortion facility in Washington, D.C., that performs late-term abortions. The DOJ also claimed in its press release that two of the defendants, Joan Bell and Jean Marshall, “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes” and used a “physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because they were providing or obtaining reproductive health services.”

Bell is 74 years old and Marshall is 73.

Their co-defendant, Jonathan Darnel, 41, was also convicted despite not entering the clinic. Darnell livestreamed the “rescue event,” in which protestors seek to stop abortions, on Facebook.

These latest convictions follow those of five other pro-life protestors in a trial connected to the same incident. As with the previous convictions, all three of the protestors were immediately incarcerated prior to official sentencing because both the prosecution and U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly assert that they committed “a crime of violence.”

Kollar-Kotelly also turned down a request by Marshall to remain on house arrest as she awaits hip replacement surgery.

The defendants deny any violence. Paulette Harlow, 73, who also awaits trial, argued that “to try to label them [defendants] as violent, or any of the pro-life people as violent is very, very false, and it’s just meant to sway people away from what we’re trying to do. And what we’re trying to do is save lives.”

A video shows the protesters singing hymns, sitting inside the abortion clinic, telling women that pro-lifers will support them and their child, explaining their beliefs to a police officer, but also refusing to get up and leave.

Steve Crampton, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, characterized the prosecution as a “political witch-hunt” and claimed that it is nearly impossible to get a fair jury trial in D.C. as the city is one of the most pro-abortion cities in the nation. Crampton, who represents Lauren Handy, one of the protestors convicted in the first trial, claimed that most of the members of the jury were either donors to Planned Parenthood or pro-choice advocates.

“They waited a year and a half to file this action. If, indeed, this was some sort of dire offense and the defendants ought to be incarcerated, why in the world does the government wait a year and a half to file the charges?” asked Crampton.

Despite what they believe is an unjust ruling, the protestors remained resolved to pray for the unborn.

As supporters gathered outside the courthouse on the first day of the trial, Darnel said that incarceration isn’t “the end of your life or the end of your effectiveness. It’s just jail — a normative part of following God in a nation that hates Him.”

Bell’s husband said that she was sharing “in a very small way in Christ’s suffering, not least for the unborn who had no voice.” He added that Bell sees her incarceration as an “opportunity to pray like a Carmelite cloistered nun” and continue her work as a “silent witness” to “save babies who nobody wants to see or defend.”

It’s hard to argue with Crampton that the prosecutions are a “political witch hunt.” Ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, the DOJ has weaponized the FACE Act against peaceful pro-life protestors, while showing a glaring lack of concern over the truly violent actions of pro-abortion activists.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are also protected under the FACE Act, but the DOJ has yet to prosecute those who have vandalized, firebombed, or threatened pro-life centers or pro-lifers themselves. While the attacks on pregnancy centers have slowed since last year’s “night of rage” (which turned into a year of rage) by pro-abortion terrorists like Jane’s Revenge, violence against pro-lifers has become commonplace.

In Washington, the same city in which these pro-life advocates were prosecuted, two women assaulted a pro-life sidewalk counselor. One woman walked across the street to fling her coffee in the pro-life woman’s face and another woman showed up and began shouting at her, before one of the suspects slammed another pro-lifer to the ground and began punching him.

In Saginaw, Michigan, an abortionist used his car to run over a pro-life advocate, Mark Zimmerman, then backed up and ran over him again. Witnesses say the assailant laughed at Zimmerman as he lay on the ground in pain, suffering from a broken leg.

The abortionist was not immediately arrested, despite the testimony of four eyewitnesses. When he finally was arrested, he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, which carries only a four-year prison sentence. Zimmerman’s attorney called the charges “outrageous,” saying that the abortionist should have been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, which carries a 10-year prison sentence — not just because the act was intentional but because it was the second time the abortion provider has run over a pro-life activist with his car. In 2010, he was convicted after hitting Lynn Mills, director of Pro-Life Michigan, but was given a sentence of just six months’ probation.

Then there was the grisly assault of two elderly pro-life activists by a man in Baltimore.

Clearly, violence against pro-lifers, pro-life pregnancy centers, and even churches by pro-abortion activists is a severe problem in our country, yet little has been done to stop it or even condemn it.

Meanwhile, the government is waging war on pro-life protestors. Keep in mind that many of these arrests have taken place after peaceful protests and prayer sessions. Because they too consider themselves pro-abortion, the mainstream media insists that the DOJ is just doing its job.

But when nearly 100 pro-life centers are vandalized and burned but only two people are arrested, while numerous pro-lifers have their homes raided and are arrested, tried, and incarcerated, there is clearly a double standard at play. Moreover, when a two-time violent assailant receives a maximum prison sentence of four years for purposefully running down someone with his car while elderly women are convicted of “violence” and face more than a decade in prison for protesting the impending death of innocent children, then how can you conclude anything other than that the American justice system has been hijacked and weaponized against those who would dare speak out against abortion?

The Church must be involved in public discourse and influence. That’s why we write — so our readers can be equipped to understand and pursue righteous change in the world. For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center newsletter.

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