Pro-life activist Lauren Handy will serve nearly 5 years in prison for blocking a DC abortion facility

WASHINGTON – A federal judge has sentenced pro-life activist Lauren Handy to nearly five years in prison for organizing a blockade at an abortion facility in the nation's capital. As a result, Handy's legal team has vowed to challenge what it believes is the “root cause” of the activist's conviction: the FACE Act.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, sentenced Handy on Tuesday to four years and nine months in prison. Handy, the director of activism and mutual aid for the Progressive Anti-Abortion Rebellion, was one of several activists found guilty in August of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

On October 22, 2020, Handy and fellow activists implemented a plan to prevent the Washington Surgi-Clinic from performing abortions that day. Several of the activists used chains, ropes and bicycle locks to tie themselves together, as well as their bodies to block access to the facility.

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Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of at least six years for Handy, calling the activist the “criminal mastermind” behind the October 2020 blockade and similar past actions.

One of Handy's attorneys, Martian Cannon, had a chance to speak before Kollar-Kotelly announced the activist's sentence. The senior counsel for the Thomas More Society compared Handy's actions to the peaceful protests made by Martin Luther King Jr.

The defense lawyers had asked before the day of judgment, that Handy be allowed to serve a sentence of not more than 12 months. Before the sentence came down, Cannon also told the judge that the activist had already served time in prison starting in August 2023.

“There was only one thing around which Mrs. Handy and her co-defendants were united, and that was non-violence. They conspired to be peaceful,” the lawyer said in a statement given to The Christian Post, announcing the legal team's plans to appeal.

“However, today, the court granted the Biden Department of Justice their wish, sentencing Mrs. Handy to 57 months – nearly five years in prison,” Handy's attorney continued. “For her efforts to peacefully protect the lives of innocent preborn humans, Ms. Handy deserves thanks, not a heart-wrenching prison sentence.”

Speaking before the judge, Cannon described Handy as “beautiful”, adding that the pro-lifer acted on her “good faith belief that another life was at risk” and that was “important” to consider when determining how much time Handy should serve. in prison

“These are good people who would not intentionally hurt anyone,” Cannon said of Handy and the other activists. “Lauren has done quite a while. Send Lauren home. Send them all home.”

Kollar-Kotelly stated during the sentencing that Handy was not punished for her views on abortion. The judge acknowledged that there have been pro- and anti-abortion protests for decades and that Americans have the right to protest peacefully.

“The law does not protect violent and disruptive behavior, nor should it,” Kollar-Kotelly said.

The judge highlighted a victim impact letter from a nurse who worked at the abortion facility who stated that she injured her ankle when the activists pushed their way into the center. Two women also arrived at the Washington Surgery Clinic on the day of the blockade to obtain abortions.

Before sentencing, Kollar-Kotelly said she reviewed the security footage of the October 2020 blockade, stating she found it “disheartening”. The judge acknowledged that Handy and her fellow activists have strong anti-abortion views, but felt they were putting those views before the women who came to the facility to obtain abortions.

One of the women who came to the Washington Surgi Clinic for an abortion on October 22, 2020, reportedly collapsed on the floor and needed medical attention. Another woman climbed through a reception window to escape the activists blocking the door.

“Neither you nor any of the other co-conspirators showed any compassion or empathy to those two women in need of medical care,” Kollar-Kotelly said of their abortions. “Your opinions trumped, frankly, their human needs.”

The judge stated that she had heard that Handy had a reputation for being “compassionate”, adding that the activist had not “displayed” this trait on the day of the blockade.

In addition to time in prison, Handy will serve three years of supervised release. Kollar-Kotelly said Handy will not be allowed to come within a certain number of feet of an abortion facility unless she is there for an appointment or she has received permission from a probation officer.

After the federal judge handed down the sentence, multiple pro-life advocates present in the courtroom stood and applauded as Handy was led away. Some of the activists shouted, “You're a hero, Lauren!”

Reacting to the decision, PAAU founder Terrisa Bukovinac stated that the Biden administration and US Attorney General Merrick Garland “have reached a new level of tyranny.” The pro-life leader claimed that pro-life activists face a different level of punishment than activists involved in other social justice movements.

“This blatant viewpoint discrimination has incalculable consequences for babies, their parents, those who defend them, and for peace activists across movements worldwide,” Bukovinac said in a statement to CP. “I continue to support Lauren and the other eight defendants who risked their freedoms to stand in defense of the least of us.”

Caroline Smith, executive director of PAAU, said in a statement to CP on Tuesday that “the abortion industry wants to scare, scare, scare us and isolate us.”

“But what they don't know is that we have a radical hope that goes beyond the concrete walls of both prisons and abortion facilities,” she said. “I believe the repression the DOJ is expressing now will absolutely backfire on them in the near future. Repression always backfires, especially when your motivation is blood money. Abortion is murder, and fetuses are people, and nothing will stop rescue.”

Handy also released a statement Tuesday reflecting on the nine months she has already served and her struggles to figure out what to say after she was “torn from her community.” The pro-life activist stated that she refuses to become “fatigued” despite everything that has happened.

“Why? Because life goes on…even in prison. So I might as well continue to love and cry and scream and dance. That is a joy,” the PAAU leader said in a statement given to CP. “The feeling of being fully alive without shame. That 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.”

Live Action founder Lila Rose as well reacted to the news of Handy's sentencing on Tuesday, describing it as a “grave injustice!”

“Meanwhile, abortionists who dismember and kill children walk free,” Rose stated.

Penny Nance, the CEO of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, also described the sentence of the PAAU activist as “an injustice”. In a Tuesday X post, Nance called for the repeal of the FACE Act, arguing that it is an “unconstitutional breach of the 'state police power'” and that the Biden administration has used it to “attack political opponents.”


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