Pro-life activist sentenced to almost five years in prison after 'shocking' outcome: 'Not the America I know'

Two pro-life activists were sentenced Tuesday to several years in prison on charges of conspiring against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) stemming from a 2020 “rescue” at a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic . .

Lauren Handy, 30, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for organizing the protest, while co-defendant John Hinshaw, 69, was sentenced to one year and nine months. Handy and Hinslaw, along with seven others convicted on the same charge, blocked access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic on Oct. 22, 2020, while chaining themselves to furniture in the clinic, the indictment said.

The hours-long protest was streamed live on one of the protester's Facebook accounts.

“Our 'crime' was 'trying to stop the slaughter of premature babies at the Santangelo abortion facility in Washington, DC,'” Hinslaw said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital. “Furthermore, the importance of these penalties cannot be overstated, as 'peaceful civil disobedience' has never before faced the level of legal violence that our federal law enforcement is now practicing!”

PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS FOUND GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY CHARGES FOR 2020 'RESCUE' AT DC CLINIC

Lauren Handy, director of activism for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, poses for a portrait in Washington, DC on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Eric Lee for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

During last year's jury trial, Handy and another co-defendant, Herb Geraghty, cited the pro-life organization Live Action's video “Inhuman: Undercover in America's Late-Term Abortion Industry” as influencing their decision to participate in the blockade .

Part of the video, released a decade ago, shows Santangelo telling an undercover woman that if she went into labor and gave birth before the “termination part of the procedure” was performed, “we wouldn't do anything about it.”

After the indictment, remains of apparently aborted unborn babies were found in Handy's Washington home, prosecutors said.

According to the October 2022 indictment, Handy, using a fabricated identity, arranged an appointment at the clinic, and when a clinic employee opened the door, pro-life activists emerged from the building's emergency stairwell and invaded the facility. The incident resulted in an altercation that led to a clinic employee being hospitalized for an ankle injury, prosecutors said.

FOR A LAWMAKER IN LOUISIANA, EXEMPTING INCEST AND RAPE FROM THE STATE'S ABORTION BAN IS PERSONAL

Abortion clinic

Lauren Handy was sentenced to more than four years in prison. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Prosecutors argued the pro-life activists violated the FACE Act of 1994, a federal law that prohibits physical force, threats of violence, or intentional damage to property to prevent someone from obtaining or providing abortion services.

Defense attorneys requested a one-year prison sentence for Handy, who has been in prison since her conviction in August 2023.

When Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly read the “shocking” sentence, it was “a little bit surreal,” Steve Crampton, senior adviser at the Thomas Moore Society, said in a Fox News Digital interview on Wednesday.

“This is not the America I know,” said Crampton, who represented Handy in the case. “Not only did the judge read this very harsh sentence, but she also had the audacity to lecture Lauren Handy about her lack of compassion for the women who were going to kill their children.”

Crampton compared the pro-life activists' demonstration to the current anti-Israel demonstrations that have been taking place on college campuses for weeks.

“The contrast here with the pro-Palestinian people who are closing colleges and even preventing graduation ceremonies, and blocking entire highways and highways in addition to the ongoing attacks… yet there are virtually no ongoing investigations. I think there is some sort of palpable sense of selective prosecution elements that cannot be ignored here.”

FORMER POP STAR SHARE ABORTION REGRETS: 'I HAVE A GRAMMY, BUT NONE BRING BACK MY KIDS'

Supreme Court Roe v. Wade

People protest against abortion, Friday, June 24, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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The judge told Handy that she was being punished for her actions, not her beliefs.

“The law does not protect violent or obstructive behavior, nor should it,” Kollar-Kotelly said.

Prosecutors gave Handy a prison sentence of about six years. They described her as an anti-abortion extremist who was a “criminal mastermind” behind the invasion of Washington and similar attacks on other clinics.

“Her strong anti-abortion views led her to devise a plan to block access to the Surgi clinic,” prosecutors wrote. “The blockade, which was broadcast to Handy's legion of followers, encouraged others to commit similar crimes, publicized its own transgression and traumatized the victims.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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