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Two-tier justice: Seven pro-lifers get multi-year prison sentences for peacefully protesting at D.C. abortion clinic

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In a woefully un-American act, the DOJ and a pro-abortion judge have now fully weaponized the FACE Act in an attempt to intimidate and silence dissent and stop others from speaking out against abortion.


A U.S. District Court Judge began handing down sentences yesterday for pro-life activists who were convicted under the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act because of their protest of the Washington Surgi-Clinic, where the activists claim babies are born alive and left to die.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly first sentenced Lauren Handy, 30, a member of the left-wing pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), to 57 months in prison followed by three years of supervision for allegedly being the “mastermind” of what the judge called a “violent” protest.

While Kollar-Kotelly said there may be nothing more American than protest, “[t]he law does not protect violent and obstructive conduct, nor should it.”

“That’s what you’re being punished for today,” the judge told Handy.

“Neither you nor any of the other co-conspirators showed any compassion, empathy, toward those two women needing medical care. Your views took precedence over, frankly, their human needs,” Kollar-Kotelly added.

Oddly enough, Handy and her legal representatives with the Thomas More Society argued that it was compassion that she and her co-defendants were trying to show that day.

The protest, which occurred in October 2020, was in response to abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo performing late-term abortions and who has been recorded on video admitting that he does not use feticide on fetuses older than 20 weeks, a medication that would induce a heart attack in the baby and avoid the pain of being dismembered or forcefully taken from the womb. Santangelo has also been recorded saying he would not provide care for a baby who survived an abortion, but would instead allow it to die.

Handy and her co-defendants weren’t arrested during or immediately following their protest of the Washington-Surgi Clinic where Santangelo works.

In March 2022, Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac, another member of PAAU, were given a box of fetal remains outside of the Washington Surgi Clinic, including five fully-intact late-term babies, which Handy and Bukovinac suspected were killed in violation of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.

When they called the D.C. police to come and retrieve the babies in the hopes that they would perform autopsies and investigate, law enforcement instead arrested Handy and the other protesters, not for possessing the fetuses but for their protest a year and a half earlier.

Meanwhile, Kollar-Kotelly would not permit Handy or the other co-defendants to argue that their actions were in defense of another person. The judge also would not allow the defendants to show the video of Santangelo, which they argued was vital for understanding their mindset in conducting the protest. Also deemed inadmissible were photos of the five babies.

Kollar-Kotelly convicted Handy along with Joan Bell, Jean Marshall, Jonathan Darnel, Paulette Harlow, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and Herb Geraghty.

Handy responded to her sentence with the following statement:

“It has been close to 9 months since I was abruptly ripped from my community. This has led me to think long and hard on what to say about my sentencing today in federal court. Some drafts were angry and righteous while most were just a tearstained longing for my loved ones back home. Yes, this time has been challenging but I refuse to be jaded. Why? Because life goes on… even in jail. 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. So today, I am at peace with myself and my future. I will go into court with my head held high and my heart open.”

Handy will appeal the conviction.

Yesterday the judge also sentenced 69-year-old Hinshaw to 21 months in federal prison.

Hinshaw issued a statement apologizing to all those impacted by abortion and declaring himself guiltless. He instead said it is the court and Kollar-Kotelly who are guilty.

He will get credit for nine months served.

Kollar-Kotelly also sentenced William Goodman to 27 months in prison.

On May 15, she sentenced Jonathan Darnel to 34 months in prison, even though Darnel never entered the clinic, but only livestreamed the protest online.

Joan Andrews Bell, 74, was sentenced to 27 months, as was Herb Geraghty. Jean Marshall, also 74, was sentenced to 24 months; Marshall, who has health issues, had requested home confinement but was denied.

Heather Idoni, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21, also faces a conviction of a FACE Act violation for her connection to a protest in Tennessee, as well as charges stemming from a protest in Michigan. Idoni, 62, a mother of 16, including 10 adopted orphans from Ukraine, had been placed in solitary confinement for 22 days for allegedly sharing food with another prisoner. She was recently taken to a hospital with heart flutters and diagnosed with COVID, according to Bukovinac.

Paulette Harlow is scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.

The Department of Justice’s weaponization of the FACE Act has drawn calls for its repeal.

Martin Cannon, senior counsel with the Thomas More Society, said in a statement,

“There was only one thing around which Ms. Handy and her co-defendants were unified, and that was nonviolence. They conspired to be peaceful. Yet, today, the Court granted the Biden Department of Justice its wish by sentencing Ms. Handy to 57 months—nearly 5 years in prison. For her efforts to peacefully protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, Ms. Handy deserves thanks, not a gut-wrenching prison sentence. We will vigorously pursue an appeal of Ms. Handy’s conviction and attack the root cause of this injustice, that is, the FACE Act—which we believe is unconstitutional and should never again be used to persecute peaceful pro-lifers.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah claimed that the DOJ is “unjustly” prosecuting pro-life protestors, arguing,

“The Biden administration is using the FACE Act to give pro-life activists and senior citizens lengthy prison terms for non-violent offenses and protests—all while turning a blind eye to the violence, arson, and riots conducted on behalf of ‘approved’ leftist causes. Unequal enforcement of the law is a violation of the law, and men and women who try to expose the horrors of abortion are being unjustly persecuted for their motivations.”

Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022, the DOJ made clear it would step up enforcement of the FACE Act in order to safeguard abortion. Meanwhile, during that same time, well over 100 acts of violence, including firebombings, vandalism, threats, and arson, were committed by pro-abortion zealots against churches and pro-life pregnancy centers, which are also supposed to be protected under the FACE Act. While a paltry few of those perpetrators have been arrested and indicted, none have been charged under the FACE Act and most remain free.

By contrast, elderly men and women whose only “crime” was sitting in an abortion clinic and singing and praying in the hopes that they might save a child’s life, will rot in federal prison, even as the DOJ continues to feverishly prosecute other pro-life protestors.

Take, for example, 88-year-old Eva Edl, who grew up under the boot of communism in Eastern Europe and survived a concentration camp to come to the supposed land of freedom. She awaits her sentencing for her part in the Tennessee protest and also faces charges for the Michigan protest. She now says she has resigned herself to the reality that she will likely die in prison.

Edl has been arrested 46 times for protesting abortion clinics, which she calls America’s death camps.

She questions what would have happened if those in her native Yugoslavia would have stood up against tyranny. “What if citizens of my country would have overcome their fear, and a number of them stood on those railroad tracks between the gate of the entrance to the death camp and the train?” Edl asks.

“The train would have to stop. And while the guards on those trains would be busy rounding up the ones that were in front of the train, another group could have come in, pried open our cattle car and possibly set us free, but nobody did.”

Edl sees her protests of abortion and attempts to dissuade women from aborting their child in a similar way.

“I feel very strongly, because of my background, that human life is sacred,” she explained. “Government does not have the authority to permit what God forbids. And murder is forbidden by God.”

This is who the DOJ is persecuting.

People who are simply trying to save lives from America’s own death camps.

Whether Americans want to admit it or not, abortion has killed far more than even the Holocaust. The government may sanction it. Some of our leaders may even love it. They may make laws outlawing protest much like it was illegal to hide Jews or to help slaves escape through the underground railroad. That doesn’t change the fact that it is murder.

What the DOJ is doing is trying to intimidate and silence dissent so others will get the message and remain silent in the face of injustice. That is woefully un-American and more in line with the totalitarian tactics of the Gestapo, the Stasi, and the KGB.

While leftist judges, prosecutors, and the DOJ let violent criminals walk free in cities and towns across this nation, it is rabidly prosecuting little old ladies and grandfathers trying to protect the innocent. Think on that, pray on that, and decide what you are willing to do to change it. One thing none of us can do is remain silent.


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