Houck prosecution, Handy sentencing, suggest pro-life movement is DOJ target

Houck prosecution, Handy sentencing, suggest pro-life movement is DOJ target

Houck prosecution, Handy sentencing, suggest pro-life movement is DOJ target

The sentencing of pro-life activist Lauren Handy under a newly utilized resource in the Biden administration’s weaponization toolbox will be appealed, her attorney says.

But more cases are pending as the administration continues to target pro-lifers in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to return control of abortion to the states.

“Lauren is really the first person charged, convicted and sentenced under the Biden administration’s new way of prosecuting these peaceful protests,” Peter Breen, the head of litigation at Thomas More Society, said on Washington Watch Wednesday.

Handy, 30, was sentenced earlier this week to four years and nine months in prison for her role in the 2020 disruption of a Washington, D.C., abortion facility, Surgi-Clinic. She was found guilty of conspiracy against rights and for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

Handy (pictured at right) gained entry into the facility by making an appointment with a fake name, said J. Christian Adams, a former DOJ attorney, on American Family Radio.

The Associated Press reported physical confrontations between other defendants and clinic patients.

The conspiracy against rights charge “was invented to go after the KKK over a hundred years ago, and now they’re using it against these peaceful pro-life protesters. Now you juxtapose them against the over a hundred pro-life churches and pregnancy centers that have been firebombed and vandalized with almost nothing done by the Department of Justice,” Breen said.

Fox News reported that within four months of the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade more than 100 pro-life organizations and churches had been attacked.

FACE Act: Biden’s shiny new toy

Aggressive use of the FACE Act is new, Breen said.

The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and is heavy with abortion protection but includes religious protection too.

“Imagine this, if this were a legitimate tool, wouldn't the Clinton administration or the Obama administration, the most pro-abortion administration prior to this one, wouldn't they have used it? Absolutely. But instead, this is a tool that is not meant to be used for peaceable public demonstrations like these,” Breen said.

Breen, Peter (Thomas More Society) Breen

The Associated Press also reported that the bodies of five unborn children were found at Handy’s home at the time of her indictment.

What the AP omitted, according to reporter Mary Margaret Olohan of The Daily Signal, was that the bodies were found outside Washington’s SurgiClinic in a box and waiting to be taken for incineration. Handy and friend Terrisa Bukovinac called the police with hopes that autopsies would be conducted.

Breen says the administration’s pursuit of pro-lifers began with Mark Houck, the  Pennsylvania pro-life activist. Accused of violating the FACE Act, Houck was facing up to 10 years in prison after he pushed a cursing abortion clinic escort. 

Despite video footage of the incident, which showed he did not violate the law, the DOJ sent a top prosecutor from Washington to oversee Houck's criminal case. A jury acquitted him within an hour. 

After learning the DOJ was pursuing charges, Houck's attorneys had also assured federal prosecutors their client would show up in court to hear his charges if he was indicted. Instead, the FBI conducted an early-morning SWAT raid to arrest him and take him into custody.   

“We were able to secure a not guilty verdict for him in the federal district court in Philadelphia. They started there, and now they've gone after utterly peaceable people for these multi-year sentences. The American people are seeing what's going on, and I've never seen so much sensitivity both in the political leadership and the people. They’re seeing this, and I think it's getting through. If there is a silver lining to this, the people of America are waking up and seeing this sort of thing, and it is driving them to understand the Biden administration is misusing the government,” Breen said.

But there are still cases and courtrooms to navigate in Tennessee and Michigan in the near future.

In Tennessee, Paul Vaughn, a Christian father of 11, was arrested along with others after participating in a “peaceful, life-affirming gathering at a Mt. Juliet, Tennessee abortion facility,” a Thomas More Society news release said.

That was in March of 2021.

FBI officials, somewhat less in number but no less loud and humiliating than they were with Houck before his family, showed up at Vaughn’s home at 7 a.m. one October morning.

Houck, Mark (Pro-life activist) Houck

Four agents pounded on the front door while another agent walked around the yard and found two of the Vaughn children. The agent told them they’re father was about to be taken into custody.

"One child ran into the house crying, 'The FBI is here, and they are arresting Daddy.' They traumatized me and my family intentionally. We will never forget this,” Bethany Vaughn told Townhall.com.

Agents ignored Bethany Vaughn’s repeated requests for their names and information as Paul Vaughn was driven away, according to video obtained by Townhall.

Breen said Paul Vaughn was at Mt. Juliet only “for moral support. They swept him in as part of a conspiracy, a conspiracy to support a First Amendment protected activity.”

Breen said the Supreme Court has taken notice of the administration’s use of the FACE Act.

Strong appeal coming for Handy

In Handy’s case in particular, “we think we have a strong appeal, and we are going to take this as far as it needs to be taken because we’ve seen recently the Biden administration has charged people with laws that were not meant for the conduct charged,” Breen said.

The conspiracy against rights charge is also misapplied because there’s no federally protected right for abortion since Roe v. Wade was reversed, he said.

“We’re very hopeful that we may be able to get at least the felony part of this conspiracy against rights overturned. There is no right to abortion in America. So why are we now dealing with this conspiracy against rights charge? It makes no sense at all.”