OAN’s Abril Elfi
1:13 PM – Thursday, August 31, 2023
Five pro-life activists were convicted for blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C., as it is a violation of federal law.
On Tuesday, after a day and a half of deliberation, jurors found campaigners Lauren Handy, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, John Hinshaw, and Herb Geraghty, guilty of two felony charges regarding conspiracy against rights and breaking the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Prosecutors identified Handy as the organizer and leader of the blockage back in October 22nd, 2020, preventing patients from receiving care at the Washington Surgi-Clinic.
According to witness testimony, the day before, anti-abortion activists from throughout the country flew to D.C. for a meet up. This is where Handy reportedly laid out the group’s scheme and warned her fellow protesters who planned to disrupt the clinic to mentally prepare since they could face arrest.
Caroline Davis, an activist who was present at the conference, reported that Handy went so far as to describe the particular statute, the FACE Act, under which those who blocked doors could be punished.
On the day of the event, Handy and anti-abortion activist Joan Bell waited outside of the clinic door while other activists, including her co-defendants, Geraghty and Goodman, hid in an emergency stairwell with a bag of locks and chains.
Handy had scheduled an appointment using the alias “Hazel Jenkins.”
When a clinic staffer unlocked the door, the activists rushed out of the stairwell and forced their way into the building in a scuffle that reportedly sent one of the clinic employees to the hospital with an ankle injury.
Surveillance footage also appeared to show Handy directing other protestors, who then put chairs in front of the entrance from the waiting room of the clinic.
According to the footage, Bell and Paulette Harlow took chains from a backpack and attached them to bike locks that were worn around their necks. After that, they both sat in chairs in front of the door with other activists, including one of the defendants on trial, Hinshaw, to establish a physical blockade.
Additional activists had returned to the corridor, where some stood in front of the clinic’s personnel entrance and others tried to persuade clinic patients who were sitting and waiting for appointments to leave.
On a D.C. police body camera video, one patient who testified in the case was seen becoming increasingly emotional, shouting, “How is this legal?” referring to the blockage. She was forced to climb through a window to make her way into the reception area.
Another patient claimed that she had fainted on the floor outside of the clinic while her husband pleaded with activists to let her in.
The blockage lasted more than three hours before police arrived and were able to relocate the group and move them away from the facility. Before the activists could be apprehended, police used a saw to cut off the bike locks that two of the defendants had wrapped around their necks.
Since jurors determined that the conspirators committed a violent felony by forcing their way into the clinic, the judge ordered that all five be detained while their sentencing was pending. They could face up to 11 years in federal prison.
There is no established date for the upcoming hearing, however, Bell will reportedly go on trial with a second group of defendants next month.
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