Pro-life activist gets nearly 5-year prison term for clinic blockade

Pro-life activist gets nearly 5-year prison term for clinic blockade

Pro-life activist gets nearly 5-year prison term for clinic blockade

WASHINGTON — A pro-life activist who led others on a blockade of an abortion clinic in the nation's capital was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly five years in prison.

Lauren Handy, 30, was among several people convicted of federal civil rights offenses for blocking access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic on Oct. 22, 2020. Police found the remains of five babies at Handy's home in Washington after she was indicted.

A clinic nurse sprained her ankle when one of Handy's co-defendants forced his way into the clinic and pushed her. Another co-defendant accosted a woman who was having labor pains, preventing her from getting off a floor and entering the clinic, prosecutors said.

Inside the clinic's waiting room, Handy directed blockaders to link themselves together with locks and chains and block the doors. A co-defendant used social media to livestream the blockade, which lasted several hours before police arrested the participants.

Handy declined to address the court before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced her to four years and nine months in prison.

Handy's supporters applauded as she was led out of the courtroom. “You're a hero, Lauren!” one of them shouted.

The judge told Handy that she was being punished for her actions, not her beliefs.

“The law does not protect violent nor obstructive conduct, nor should it,” Kollar-Kotelly said.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of roughly six years for Handy. They described her as an anti-abortion extremist who was a "criminal mastermind" behind the Washington invasion and similar attacks on other clinics.

A jury convicted Handy of two charges: conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, more commonly known as the FACE Act.

Defense lawyers asked for a prison sentence of one year for Handy, who has been jailed since her August 2023 conviction. Her attorneys described her as a compassionate activist who “cares deeply for the vulnerable communities she serves.”

“Her goal in life is to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to empower those who do not feel that they have any power,” the defense attorneys wrote.

Handy's nine co-defendants were Jonathan Darnel, of Virginia; Jay Smith, John Hinshaw and William Goodman, all of New York; Joan Bell, of New Jersey; Paulette Harlow and Jean Marshall, both of Massachusetts; Heather Idoni, of Michigan; and Herb Geraghty, of Pennsylvania.

Smith was sentenced last year to 10 months behind bars. Hinshaw, Idoni and Goodman also were scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. Darnel, Geraghty, Marshall and Bell are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday. Harlow’s sentencing is set for May 31.

“These are good people who wouldn't hurt anybody on purpose,” said Martin Cannon, one of Handy's attorneys. “Lauren has done enough time. Send Lauren home. Send them all home.”