". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Outcry Grows over Nearly 5-Year Prison Sentence of Pro-Life Activist

May 16, 2024

Lawmakers, legal experts, and analysts are decrying the nearly five-year prison sentence levied on a pro-life activist as an example of the weaponization of the federal government against citizens with disfavored political views.

On Tuesday, pro-life activist Lauren Handy was sentenced to 57 months in prison for leading a group of other activists in blockading the entrance to a Washington, D.C. abortion facility in October 2020. Handy was prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division along with nine other co-defendants and became the first person ever to be sentenced for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The FACE Act was originally designed to protect both pregnancy resource centers and abortion facilities, but the Biden administration has notably used the law to justify the prosecution of pro-life activists on numerous occasions ever since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

“Today’s outrageous 57-month sentence for a progressive pro-life activist is a stark reminder: Biden’s DOJ is fully weaponized against pro-life American citizens, and they are using the FACE Act to do it,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in a statement following Handy’s sentence. “House Republicans should defund the DOJ weaponization, repeal the FACE Act, and stand up for the freedoms that we campaign on.”

On Wednesday, Peter Breen, who represents Handy in the case and serves as executive vice president and head of litigation at Thomas More Society, pointed out on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” that in addition to the FACE Act charge, the DOJ unearthed an obscure “conspiracy against rights” law to prosecute Handy.

“They’re using a 10-year felony statute conspiracy against rights that was invented to go after the KKK over 100 years ago and [are] now using it against these peaceful pro-life protesters,” he explained. “You juxtapose them against the over 100 pro-life churches and pregnancy centers that have been firebombed and vandalized, with almost nothing done by the Department of Justice.”

Breen went on contend that that Handy and her co-defendants were specifically targeted by the Biden administration at a time when much more violent crimes have gone unpunished.

“[T]he traditional way you deal with folks doing civil disobedience is they get a trespass charge — you get a slap on the wrist and they move on,” he noted. “I mean, [look at what] we’ve been through in the last five years or so. [O]ur cities have been burned and people weren’t even charged. And now we’re looking at people that peaceably came into a late-term abortion facility where we think we’ve got evidence of illegal abortions [as well as] actual homicides of little children that were born. And our folks are getting five years in a federal penitentiary for that. That makes no sense.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins further juxtaposed the prosecution of the pro-lifers with the anti-Israel protestors occupying college campuses across the country.

“You just need to go back a couple of days to look [at] what was happening on some of these college campuses, Columbia University, where they’re breaking into buildings, occupying buildings, destroying property, and at most get a slap on the wrist or maybe expelled from school, not looking at five years in prison for peacefully protesting and advocating for the protection of the unborn,” he observed. “[I]f this does not show how the Biden administration has weaponized the law and the federal enforcement through the Department of Justice, I don’t know what does.”

Breen concurred, remarking that the optics of the sentence duration is getting America’s attention.

“[T]he American people are seeing what’s going on,” he insisted. “I’ve never seen so much sensitivity both [from] political leadership and in the American people. They’re seeing this, and I think it’s getting through. 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.”

As Breen went on to detail, the Biden administration currently has a host of other FACE Act and “conspiracy against rights” prosecutions it is attempting to convict other pro-lifers of.

“[W]e’ve got a similar situation in Tennessee,” he related. “There’s another one in Michigan as well. And our client in Tennessee is Paul Vaughn, who [is] a dad of 11 kids. He’s just a regular guy who was there. In fact, he didn’t even block the door, he was just there for moral support. They swept him in as part of a ‘conspiracy’ to support a First Amendment protected activity. … [But the] Supreme Court was even looking at this recently. Folks have been keyed into it. So we’re very hopeful that we may be able to get at least the felony part, this ‘conspiracy against rights,’ overturned. I mean, look, Dobbs reversed Roe. 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.”

Mary Szoch, who serves as director of the Center for Human Dignity at FRC, expressed further alarm at the severity of Handy’s sentence.

“In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep from the goats,” she told The Washington Stand. “He says that the King will say to those on His right, ‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ In today’s age, it’s easy to imagine the King also saying, ‘I was being killed in an abortion clinic…’. To Lauren Handy, one can imagine the King adding, ‘and you surrendered yourself to try and rescue me.’”

Szoch continued, “The sentencing of Lauren Handy to almost five years in prison is unjust, politically motivated, and un-American. Lauren and the others — several of whom were grandparents — who peacefully protested the brutal killing of unborn children should be seen as heroes — not violent criminals who deserve jail time. In the District, 67% of crimes go unprosecuted. All one has to do is look at the filming of the rescue to see this was a completely peaceful, non-violent protest. Yet, it was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. What a disgrace. What a tragedy. Lauren and those sentenced along with her should be in all of our prayers. Their witnesses should motivate each of us to do all we can in our state of life to defend the unborn.”

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society representing Handy announced Tuesday that they will file an appeal to overturn her conviction as well as contest the constitutionality of the FACE Act.

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.