DC jury finds pro-life activists guilty on all counts of blockading abortion clinic

"They have kept the memory of abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s victims alive, including five fully developed babies that were likely killed in illegal partial-birth abortions or delivered alive and left to die," said the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America.

Lauren Handy (right) rallies in Washington, D.C., in March for the rights of the unborn. (Lauren Handy/Facebook)

(The Daily Signal) — A Washington, D.C., jury has convicted five pro-life activists of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when they sought to prevent the abortions of unborn babies by blocking women from accessing a D.C. abortion clinic in 2020.

The jury found pro-life activists Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and John Hinshaw guilty of conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjay Patel blamed Handy, who is an activist with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), for the incident: “This entire event, the invasion, the blockade, this case — it’s all because of her,” the DOJ attorney said Thursday, according to WUSA9.

PAAU said in statements on Twitter that its defense attorneys believe it has “strong grounds to appeal and feel optimistic that a higher court will later rule in their favor.”

“This may even go all the way to the Supreme Court,” the group said. “In the meantime, our hero rescuers await sentencing. This isn’t the outcome we hoped for, but it also isn’t a loss! The rescue continues through court and in jail.”

PAAU added: “Some pro-life rescuers are trained in providing support after abortion to incarcerated people, and others bring their sidewalk counseling skills into the prison to convince inmates to choose life for their children. The work continues and more lives WILL be saved.”

The Thomas More Society, a group of pro-life lawyers who have previously represented pro-life activists like David Daleiden and Mark Houck, defended PAAU activists in the case, United States of America v. Handy et al.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome,” said Martin Cannon, senior counsel with the Thomas More Society. “Ms. Handy has been condemned for her efforts to protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, something she should never have been arrested for.”

He added: “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.”

The DOJ charges against the pro-life activists stemmed from an October 2020 incident where Handy and a number of other pro-life activists participated in a “rescue” at the abortion clinic of Cesare Santangelo in Foggy Bottom, D.C.

“Some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo’s facility, some passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women, and others roped and chained themselves together inside the facility,” the Thomas More Society explained.

In March 2022, the DOJ charged Handy and eight others with “conspiracy against rights and a [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] Act offense,” noting at the time that if convicted of these offenses, the defendants faced up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine up to $350,000.

The Justice Department has said that it is targeting pro-life activists through the FACE Act as a response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, according to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

In December, Gupta delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary where she described the overturn of Roe v. Wade as a “devastating blow to women throughout the country” that took away “the constitutional right to abortion” and increased “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work — including the “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”

Handy has said that she was motivated to stop abortions from occurring inside the clinic after she viewed an undercover video published by the pro-life group Live Action that allegedly showed Santangelo discussing how he would allow babies to die if they were accidentally delivered during abortions.

When the Live Action investigator asked Santangelo whether the baby might “move” if it were born alive, the abortionist told her, “That’s why I try and sever the umbilical cord first, and we wait for that to stop pulsing, and this way the fetus is expired first, so it doesn’t.”

“Has it ever survived?” the Live Action investigator asked. Santangelo responded, “No, not here,” and added: “Usually at this point in your pregnancy, it is too early to survive. Usually, it will expire shortly after birth.”

“But if it did, what would happen?” the investigator asked him. “Would I have to take it home, or like — ”

“I mean technically, legally, we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive,” he told her, according to the video. “But you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.”

“When you have a pregnancy that is 23, 24 weeks … if you do everything possible to help it survive, there’s maybe a 20%-30% chance that it would survive,” he said. “If you don’t do anything then, you know, the chances are much, much less.”

He added that “there are things you can do” to make sure the baby does not survive.

“Obviously, you’re here for a certain procedure, and if your pregnancy were — let’s say you went into labor, the membranes ruptured, and you delivered before we got to the termination of the procedure here,” he continued. “Then we would do things. We would not help it.”

“We wouldn’t intubate, let’s say,” Santangelo explained. He added that he “wouldn’t do any extra” to help the dying baby and compared letting the baby die to letting a terminally ill person die. “Like a ‘do not resuscitate’ order.”

If the mother were in a Virginia hospital and went into labor, medical professionals would do everything possible to help her baby survive, Santangelo said. “We wouldn’t here,” he said.

“That’s happened before,” Santangelo added, according to the video. “We’ve had patients that, you know, on the second day of the laminaria, they got some contractions, and they panicked, and they were in Virginia at the hospital. They went to the hospital, because they had some pain, instead of calling me.”

“And the hospital helped them to deliver,” he added. “Which was the stupidest thing they could have done … and they did everything they [inaudible] have done, which was help them to deliver.”

DC police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Signal as to whether they have investigated Santangelo. His abortion clinic, Washington Surgi-Clinic, has been around since 1973 and aborts unborn babies “up until 26 weeks of pregnancy,” according to the clinic’s site.

In March 2022, Handy and her colleague Terrisa Bukovinac discovered the bodies of five preemie-sized aborted babies’ bodies in a box of fetal remains outside the Foggy Bottom-based abortion facility. That box also contained over a hundred pulverized remains of first-trimester babies, they said.

The District does not have any laws that regulate how late during pregnancy a baby can be aborted. So when the babies’ bodies were originally brought to light, D.C. police originally shrugged off the matter.

Ashan Benedict, the Metropolitan Police Department’s executive assistant chief of police, went so far as to tell reporters in April 2022 that the babies appeared to have been aborted “in accordance with D.C. law.”

Police have repeatedly told The Daily Signal since then that the case is still “under investigation.” Authorities will not share whether autopsies have been performed on the babies’ remains. The MPD confirmed in early August that the investigation is still open.

The mayor’s office has completely stonewalled questions about the babies. Even the office of the chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia directs queries to the mayor’s office — specifically, to Dora Taylor-Lowe, who refuses to answer The Daily Signal’s requests for comment.

It remains unclear whether autopsies have been performed on the bodies of the five babies, whose bodies were photographed by Bukovinac. (Warning: These images are graphic and disturbing.) Some pro-lifers fear that the city may have gotten rid of them.

Yet, although D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser refuses to address the possibility that Santangelo was criminally aborting late-term babies in the nation’s capital, she did accuse Handy of “tampering with fetal remains” in an April 2022 letter to Republican lawmakers highlighting that Handy herself faced FACE Act charges for blocking the entrance to a D.C. abortion clinic in October 2020.

Handy’s involvement in the discovery of the babies, as well as her participation in the October 2020 “blockade,” according to Bowser, are potentially “serious violations of federal law.”

The pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America slammed the news in a statement Tuesday, praising Handy for doing a “vital public service” by “exposing the horrors of late-term abortion taking place in D.C., where there are no limits on abortion up to birth, and across the country.”

“This is a shameful day for a nation founded on unalienable rights, first and foremost including life,” the organization said. “Pro-life advocates like Lauren Handy have put their freedom on the line — peacefully and bravely — to protect babies and women from the brutality of abortion.”

“They have kept the memory of abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s victims alive, including five fully developed babies that were likely killed in illegal partial-birth abortions or delivered alive and left to die, then placed in a box and headed for the incinerator as ‘medical waste,’” SBA Pro-Life America emphasized.

The organization accused President Joe Biden’s administration of weaponizing “the full power of the federal government against them — treating them like terrorists and threatening them with as many as 11 years in prison, all while the authorities turn a blind eye to Santangelo’s atrocities.”

“Wherever one stands on abortion, we should all be able to agree this is wrong and un-American.”


Mary Margaret Olohan
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for The Daily Signal.