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Why This Pro-Life Activist Is Sentenced to Nearly Five Years in Prison

Why This Pro-Life Activist Is Sentenced to Nearly Five Years in Prison

Lauren Handy was recently sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for blocking access to a late-term abortion facility in Washington, D.C., on October 2020 and live-streaming her protest on Facebook.

In 2023, Handy and eight of her colleagues were found guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights.” The case has garnered national media attention.

So far, seven of the convicted have been sentenced, with prison terms ranging from 21 months to the 57 months given to Handy.

The charges were brought against the group of activists by President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) in an aggressive crackdown on pro-lifers who engage in direct action demonstrations.

Commentary surrounding Handy and her associates varies widely, with legacy sources characterizing her conduct as violent and obstructive and suggestions circulating that one facility worker was injured as a result of the protest. A livestream of the protest does show Handy’s group inside the facility, but the organization Handy is a part of and Handy’s attorney have insisted that she is non-violent.

As previously reported by Intellectual Takeout, the venue at which the activists staged their protest, Washington Surgi-Clinic, is notable. In 2022, Handy and her colleague Terrisa Bukovinac discovered the remains of five unborn babies in a medical waste box. These babies were in the process of being removed from clinic grounds. Handy and Bukovinac also claimed to have seen physical evidence of a further 110 aborted babies.

The FACE Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, worked to prevent pro-life demonstrators from staging “rescues.” More common in the early days of the pro-life movement, rescues involved activists physically entering abortion centers and refusing to leave in an effort to convince women to choose life for their babies.

While lawmakers understandably wanted to preserve order and protect private businesses from harassment, the FACE Act is an activist piece of legislation. It rests on the assumption that unborn babies are non-human and do not possess natural human rights.

The FACE Act would be unnecessary, in other words, if precious unborn babies enjoyed protection from the abortionist’s suction hose in the first place.

Since 1973, when Roe v. Wade was codified, more than 64,000,000 unborn babies have died by abortion in the United States, according to National Right to Life.

The cause for which Handy took a stand merits action. But her conduct and her case raise important questions: What level of intervention and obstruction is justifiable when defending the unborn? Did Handy and her fellow activists genuinely cross the line, or were they taking appropriate measures?

In a separate but similar case, Eva Edl was convicted of violating the FACE Act and faces up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines. Edl justifies her actions by comparing them to resisting the oppression she faced in a World War II–era death camp, stating she is trying to save the lives of unborn babies by blocking access to abortion clinics.

Does Edl’s story shed further light on Handy’s experiences? Is there an appropriate comparison between the atrocities of last century and the treatment of the unborn today?

The answers to these questions are not simple or clear, especially when navigating the varied media reporting in each of these cases. What is clear is the DOJ’s double standard.

Compare the steep sentencing imposed on Handy and her associates to the hands-off approach the DOJ has often taken with left-wing protesters who engage in near-identical—or more serious—direct action demonstrations.

The abject violence unleashed during the Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots of 2020, the major disruptions imposed by ongoing climate strikes, and the more recent pro-Palestinian college protests are some more obvious signs of the “two-tiered justice system” at play.

Indeed, the lack of follow-up about the dead babies discovered by Handy and Bukovinac add another perplexing layer to this saga. As observed by conservative commentator Joel Berry:

Lauren Handy retrieved the bodies of 5 babies from the trash of this abortion clinic. The bodies showed signs of illegal late term/partial birth and even post-birth abortion.

The police never investigated the murders of these babies, but sentenced Lauren to prison.

News platform Not the Bee likewise lamented that “Republican lawmakers joined calls to preserve the bodies and perform autopsies to confirm these children were murdered, but Biden’s DOJ ordered the bodies destroyed and the investigation closed.”

Without question, the FACE Act has tipped the scales of the justice system in favor of profit-seeking abortionists. But it’s worth considering another possibility: a partisan pursuit of justice.

In his book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (2011), Harvey Silverglate argues:

The very expansiveness of federal law turns nearly everyone into lawbreakers. Like the poor Soviet citizen who, on average, broke about three laws a day, a typical American will unwittingly break federal law several times daily. Many go to prison for things that historically never have been seen as criminal.

He likens the situation today to the “most chilling quote of the Soviet era,” which came from Stalin’s head of the secret police. This policeman bragged, “Show me the man, and I will find you the crime.”

“Surely, that never could be the case in America,” Silverglate quips. “We’re committed to the rule of law and have the fairest justice system in the world.”

But the reality, he mourns, is that “we suffer from a combination of vague, expansive laws, the drug war, and prosecutors who are ruthless, relentless, and who face no consequences for their own lawbreaking.”

“That,” Silverglate warns, “has turned federal criminal law into a conviction machine, sweeping up the innocent along with the guilty.”

It’s also the perfect recipe for the lopsided applications of justice by the nation’s highest legal institutions, who target ideological foes and give friends a free pass.

Painfully, Lauren Handy bears the burden of this governmental bias. We can hope, though, that her sentence will open the public’s eyes to both the plight of the unborn and the justice system’s double standard.

Image credit: Unsplash 

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Kurt Mahlburg
Kurt Mahlburg
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  • Avatar
    Swissarge
    May 28, 2024, 11:41 am

    The more laws, the less justice.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
    “Where there is no justice, there is no liberty.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

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  • Avatar
    Lysander_Spooner
    May 31, 2024, 12:12 pm

    I try to understand human behavior through the lens of utility maximization subject to constraints. Politicians are typically thought of in terms of maximizing their chances of reelection subject to constraints. However, there has to be more factors in the utility function here, as I can only imagine that such full throated devotion in the service of the abortion industry and blatant political persecution of its opponents does more to harm than help reelection chances. As such, I suspect that some kind of demonic force is at work, leading politicians to pursue evil for its own sake.

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