On October 22, 2020, Lauren Handy and a group of pro-life advocates held a sit in at an abortion clinic in Washington, DC. Her attempt to save babies, however, resulted in a 57-month prison sentence and what her attorney has called “a miscarriage of justice.”

Handy, of Alexandria, Va., was sentenced under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a 1994 law that prohibits threats to and obstruction of a person seeking abortions or “reproductive health services.” Over three and a half years ago, she led a sit-in at the offices of Dr. Cesare Santangelo, who has been accused of being a late-term abortionist. On that day, some protestors also kneeled and prayed, passed out pro-life literature, and counseled abortion-minded women.

Handy, represented by the Thomas More Society, plans to appeal her conviction. “Ms. Handy’s 57-month sentence is a miscarriage of justice, plain and simple. As I’ve gotten to know Ms. Handy, I’ve seen up close her unwavering passion for pro-life advocacy and resolute dedication to nonviolence,” said Steve Crampton, Thomas More Society’s Senior Counsel. “The caricature of Ms. Handy that the Department of Justice fabricated flies in the face of reality. Ms. Handy should have been shown the same mercy that she has herself shown to countless many downtrodden throughout her young life. It is deeply disappointing that this Court did not see through the Department of Justice’s smoke and mirrors.”

In addition to Handy, several other defendants in the case received sentences of two or more years, including senior citizens John Hinshaw, 69, and Paulette Harlow, 75, and 59-year old grandmother Heather Idoni. According to WORLD Magazine, Harlow has been on house arrest due to ill health, while Idoni is scheduled for sentencing in a similar case later this year and will also face a jury trial in a third case.

According to court testimony, Handy’s life changed when she saw an undercover video from Live Action that captured Dr. Cesare Santangelo admitting to allowing babies to be born alive and left to die. From that moment on, she dedicated herself to pro-life advocacy. “For that she’s been branded a ‘violent criminal’ and the leader of a criminal conspiracy by the Department of Justice,” said Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society Senior Counsel.

In a related case, the U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against five pro-life protesters accused of blocking the entrance of an abortion center in Fort Myers, Fla., on Jan. 27, 2022. In a WORLD Magazine article, Leah Savas noted that at least 20 pro-life activists have been convicted under the FACE Act in the past year.

“Now, as the battle over abortion access intensifies in the wake of the Dobbs decision, the [current] administration is amping up the penalties—to showcase its support for ‘reproductive rights’ and to punish anyone who stands in the way,” Savas wrote.

Cannon, who said “the fight is far from over,” called the FACE Act unconstitutional and vowed to challenge the convictions of Handy and others via appeal. He said the law is being weaponized by the Department of Justice against its ideological opponents.

“For her efforts to peacefully protect the lives of innocent preborn human beings, Ms. Handy deserves thanks, not a gut-wrenching prison sentence,” said Cannon. “We will vigorously pursue an appeal of Ms. Handy’s conviction and attack the root cause of this injustice—the FACE Act is unconstitutional and should never again be used to persecute peaceful pro-lifers.”