August 30, 2023

Pro-Lifers Incarcerated after Guilty Verdict in DC FACE Act Trial

On August 29, a jury in Washington DC found five pro-life activists guilty of conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The group was immediately incarcerated since the act of blocking access to a DC abortion business was deemed "violent."

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, President Biden's administration made abortion one of its top priorities. This shift in priorities included directing the Department of Justice to increase its enforcement of FACE. The prosecution in this case was led by government attorney Sanjay Patel, the same attorney who failed to prosecute Mark Houck.

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.”

Nine pro-life activists were indicted in connection with an October 2020 rescue, but only five of them stood trial in this case. The others will stand trial in September.

The full list of pro-lifers involved includes Lauren Handy, 29; Jonathan Darnel, 40; Jay Smith, 32; Paulette Harlow, 73; Jean Marshall, 72; John Hinshaw, 67, Heather Idoni, 61;  William Goodman, 52; and Joan Bell, 74; and Herb Geraghty, 25.

Handy, Geraghty, Idoni, Goodman, and Hinshaw were found guilty on August 29.

“Handy, Smith, Harlow, Marshall, Hinshaw, Idoni, Goodman and Bell forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes,” a DOJ press release said. “Once the blockade was established, Darnel live-streamed footage of his co-defendants’ activities.”

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Steve Crampton represented the pro-lifers. He criticized the DC jury's decision:
"In an unexpected twist, the Court found that because the violation of FACE — in this case — was a crime of ‘violence,’ all five defendants must be immediately incarcerated. So, the defendants were led out of the courtroom by an army of U.S. Marshals.

This is an outrage, and the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent. The real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure."
The first five pro-lifers now await sentencing. This could include up to 10 years for the conspiracy charge, one additional year for the FACE Act violation, $350,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release.