5 Pro-Life Activists Found Guilty Over Protest Outside Washington Abortion Clinic

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
August 29, 2023US News
5 Pro-Life Activists Found Guilty Over Protest Outside Washington Abortion Clinic
The 10 pro-life activists arrested at the Washington Surgi-Clinic pose with friends after their release from jail in Washington, on Oct. 22, 2020. (Courtesy of Terrisa Bukovinac)

Five pro-life activists have been found guilty on charges of stopping women entering a Washington abortion clinic in 2020.

They face up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to prevent someone else from exercising their rights.

Lawyers with The Thomas More Society said that the protesters—members of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU)—were also found guilty in the U.S. District Court in Washington on Aug. 29 of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

They said the Act makes it a crime to use violence, physical obstruction, or intimidation to block access to reproductive services.

Nonviolent actions breaking this law can result in up to a year in prison for committing a misdemeanor.

Senior counsel Steve Crampton said: “The court found that because the violation of FACE—in this case—was a crime of ‘violence,’ all five defendants must be immediately incarcerated.

“So, the defendants were led out of the courtroom by an army of U.S. Marshals. This is an outrage.”

The charges arose from an incident on Oct. 22, 2020, where PAAU director of activism Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, Will Goodman, Jay Smith, Paula Harlow, Jean Marshal, Joan Bell, Jonathan Darnel, and Caroline Davis entered the Washington Surgi-Clinic.

Lauren Handy
Left-wing pro-life protester Lauren Handy, the director of activism with Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 15, 2022.(Jackson Elliott/The Epoch Times)

Ms. Davis took a plea deal and testified for the government. Ms. Smith, Ms. Harlow, Ms. Marshal, Ms. Bell, and Mr. Darnel will go on trial at a later date.

The prosecution said they conspired to block the clinic’s entrances. Their lawyers said they didn’t.

The Epoch Times contacted the district court’s media liaison, Lisa J. Klem, but she didn’t reply by publication time.

In a transcript of the closing statement provided by The Thomas More Society, senior counsel Martin Cannon told jurors Ms. Handy didn’t block entry to the clinic.

“You saw it on video,” he said. “She’s not blocking anything.”

Mr. Darnel took a video of the pro-life incursion into the clinic. In it, some activists sang hymns, while others chained themselves to chairs in the clinic.

“The ‘rescuers’ are doing their job. They are not allowing women to enter the abortion clinic,” a mask-wearing protester said in the video. “As long as they’re in there, no women can go in to kill their children.”

Mr. Cannon rejected the conspiracy against rights charges.

And finally, he told the jury to “hold the laws close” despite the “passions on both sides” over abortion.

In a court transcript of the closing arguments purchased by The Epoch Times, prosecuting attorney Sanjay Patel said the protest participants were all clearly guilty.

The evidence shows the defendants conspired to violate FACE, Mr. Patel said.

He added the protesters blocked a woman in labor whose baby, doctors said, would most likely die in utero or at birth.

If any defendant used force, all of them are guilty, Mr. Patel said, adding three protesters used force.

Mr. Smith pushed a door open and pushed a nurse, Ms. Marshal pushed a nurse to enter the clinic, and Ms. Harlow “used force and threw her … body into the clinic manager,” he said.

Before the trial started, Judge Kollar-Kotelly forbade the defense from using several strategies, court documents said.

“Imminence is required; a defendant may not don a vigilante’s hood to insert themself into a situation of their own making and subsequently claim defense of a third person to justify their actions,” the judge’s instructions to the jury read.

The “necessity defense” is the idea that in an emergency, a defendant committed a crime to prevent a greater crime from happening.

Mr. Geraghty argued that they were protesting to prevent the imminent deaths of unborn babies.

The court also rejected a “defense of the third person” defense. This legal term also relies on the idea that it’s legal to break the law to defend another person’s life.

The judge also rejected any defenses based on the suggestion that the activists’ actions were protected by the First Amendment.

From The Epoch Times

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