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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A jury delivered guilty verdicts to five pro-lifers on Tuesday, convicting them of blocking access to an abortion mill and conspiring to violate civil rights. Each defendant could potentially face up to 11 years in prison.
The jury deliberated for a day and a half before finding each defendant guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in connection with a 2020 rescue mission at a late-term abortion mill in the U.S. capital. The FACE Act strictly prohibits individuals from attempting to injure, intimidate or obstruct (using force, threats of force or physical barriers) anyone seeking or performing an abortion.
Social media erupted with support for the pro-lifers. "It is a sad day in this nation when the innocent are murdered, and those who defend them are jailed," one post on X (formerly known as Twitter) said.
It is a sad day in this nation when the innocent are murdered, and those who defend them are jailed. Not much different than other nations in other eras where the innocent have been condemned by the bloodthirsty.— Judie Brown (@Judie_Brown) August 29, 2023
Five Pro-Lifers Found Guilty https://t.co/75RdEG36u5
The defendants — Lauren Handy, William Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni and Herb Geraghty — were indicted in 2020 for a rescue mission at the D.C.-based Washington Surgi-Clinic, which is managed by the notorious abortionist Cesare Santangelo.
Two of the defendants revealed they were motivated to undertake the rescue action at WSC as a result of a video made by Live Action, an organization founded by pro-lifer Lila Rose. In the video, Santangelo was featured stating that if a child was born alive at his facility during an abortion, "we would not help it."
The presiding judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Catholic-educated Clinton appointee, rejected the video's admission into evidence, deeming it "gossip from propagandists." She also barred the defendants from arguing that their actions were protected by the First Amendment or were committed in defense of a third party, namely, unborn children. She dismissed this claim as equivalent to citizens "donning a vigilante's hood."
Prosecutors portrayed Handy as the mastermind and leader of a scheme to obstruct patients from accessing the WSC abortion mill. "This entire event, the invasion, the blockade, this case — it's all because of her," government attorney Sanjay Patel asserted. Patel is the attorney who recently failed to secure a conviction against pro-life advocate Mark Houck.
Surveillance video shows Handy directing other participants to reposition chairs in front of a door connecting the waiting room to the abortion mill. Some occupied chairs directly in front of the door, while others stationed themselves in the hallway, obstructing the abortion mill's employee entrance. Others attempted to persuade clinic patients waiting for appointments not to kill their unborn babies.
Handy clarified that members of the group unwilling to venture inside the facility would engage in prayer outside of the abortion mill. The event persisted for about three hours before the police forcibly removed pro-lifers from the WSC.
Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society senior counsel and Handy's lead attorney, stated:
Lauren Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings. 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.
"In Lauren's mind, any person she can prevent from going into that clinic is a person whose baby will not be born alive and left to die," he said in closing arguments.
Overall, Cannon's legal team called out the judge and the Biden administration for their efforts "to chill pro-life speech and activism," stating:
A federal court jury fraught with bias has delivered the Biden Department of Justice the conviction of several life advocates. The group of peaceful pro-life citizens were charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act along with a conspiracy against "rights" that the United States Supreme Court has not found in the Constitution.
The defendants were arrested in March 2022, a year and a half after the incident at the Washington, D.C., abortion facility.
Supporters have asked for prayers for the defendants. Lila Rose posted on X, "Pray for Lauren, Will, Josh, Heather and Herb as they await their sentencing."