Pro-life advocates Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Herb Geraghty were recently found guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a federal law protecting abortion clinics. The group now faces up to 11 years in prison.
The FACE Act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, prohibits individuals from attempting to injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone obtaining or performing an abortion.
The defendants were involved in a protest at the Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortion clinic run by late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo. They chained themselves to the entrance of the clinic out of fear that babies might be left to die there. These concerns arose from a LiveAction undercover investigation which recorded Santangelo stating he would not help a child surviving a late-term abortion.
However, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly did not permit the defendants to use the video as evidence or argue that their actions were protected by the First Amendment or committed in defense of unborn children. The defense attorneys were also reportedly warned against using certain words like “infanticide,” “abortion,” or “innocent lives.”
The trial began on August 9, and the jury found all five defendants guilty of conspiracy and violation of the FACE Act. They were taken into custody and will remain in federal prison until sentencing. A second trial for the remaining defendants is set to start on September 6.
In response to the verdict, the Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal group defending Handy, criticized the judgment and the Biden administration for their attempts “to chill pro-life speech and activism.” They plan on appealing the decision.
This case has sparked controversy and debate among pro-life groups, with some condemning the ruling and promising appeals. The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, a liberal pro-life group affiliated with some of the defendants, stated that they feel optimistic about a higher court ruling in their favor.