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A progressive pro-lifer risks jail time

The bodies of five aborted babies in Washington, D.C. could be crucial evidence in defense of pro-lifers


Lauren Handy protests against abortion outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 8 in Washington. Associated Press/Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta, file

A progressive pro-lifer risks jail time

Pro-life activists handed over the bodies of five late-term aborted babies to the District of Columbia Medical Examiner’s office nearly three months ago. As far as they know, the babies are still at the office. The two activists, Lauren Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac, want to know if an abortionist at the Washington Surgi-Clinic killed the babies in violation of federal laws—but so far the medical examiner has provided no insight into the manner of the babies’ deaths.

In a news conference outside of the U.S. Department of Justice, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced to a small crowd on June 9 that an attorney for Bukovinac and Handy’s organization, the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), confirmed the medical examiner had agreed to allow a private pathologist to examine the bodies.

The outcome of that examination could affect a federal trial that Handy faces for participating in a 2020 sit-in at the same D.C. abortion facility where she and Bukovinac obtained the aborted babies from a medical waste truck. Handy, 28, has continued to protest on behalf of the unborn in the nation’s capital, but she could serve jail time for charges related to her pro-life activism in the District of Columbia, Michigan, and elsewhere.

Handy made headlines in March and April for storing the five babies in her basement apartment. The same day that local officials came to pick up the aborted babies at the request of an attorney helping Handy and Bukovinac, FBI agents arrested Handy outside of her apartment for participating in the 2020 sit-in at the Washington Surgi-Clinic.

Handy and eight other pro-lifers involved in the sit-in each face up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines for conspiracy against rights and for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law passed in 1994 to deter pro-life activists from engaging in abortion center blockades.

According to the indictment, Handy made an appointment at the abortion facility for 9 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2020, under the name Hazel Jenkins. Once the facility opened that morning, she and seven other pro-lifers entered the waiting room and blockaded the doors with chairs. Some of them chained and roped themselves together while Handy stood at the main entrance to prevent patients from coming in. A ninth activist livestreamed the demonstration on Facebook.

Handy is a self-described “Catholic anarcho mutualist” who wants to create “trans-inclusive spaces within the pro-life movement.” She said her goal since starting pro-life activism as an 18-year-old has always been to bring back the rescue movement of the 1980s, when large groups of pro-lifers would use civil disobedience to interrupt operations at abortion facilities. Handy knew about the FACE Act and understood that the longer she participated in direct action, the more likely it became that she would be charged under federal law.

But Handy said the devastation of seeing the bodies of the aborted babies has drowned out the emotional effect of the federal charges. “There’s not words that can truly express the devastation and tragedy of holding, you know, like literal babies in your hands who were murdered,” she said. Since news about the babies first broke in late March, Handy and Bukovinac have participated in regular news conferences and protests, including outside of the D.C. mayor’s office, the Washington Surgi-Clinic, and the medical examiner’s office.

Bukovinac and others who have examined the five babies believe one may have been a victim of an illegal partial-birth abortion and that others had been born alive but left to die in violation of federal law. Earlier this month, she described the medical examiner’s agreement to allow a pathologist to examine the bodies as “just a verbal agreement,” noting the matter was “delicate” since the examination hadn’t happened yet. “I think that the real takeaway from this is that the babies are still there, that this is essentially confirmation that the bodies have not been destroyed, and that we can still seek a proper burial for them, as well as a full investigation into their deaths,” she said.

Bukovinac said the babies are relevant evidence in Handy’s case since they came from the abortion facility where Handy and the others protested. Depending on the outcome of the pathologist’s exam, Bukovinac said they could prove that Handy and the others weren’t conspiring against anyone’s rights by blockading the abortion facility but were “protecting victims of violent felonies, of federal crimes.”

Handy last attended a status hearing in the federal case on June 13 and has another scheduled for Aug. 9. But she could wind up in prison mere days before that hearing.

On June 28, the trial begins for another case in Flint, Mich., related to a 2019 “Red Rose Rescue” Handy participated in at the Women’s Center of Flint. In these demonstrations, pro-lifers enter abortion facilities to hand out red roses and information about abortion alternatives to women in the waiting room. When the police arrive, the activists will often try to slow down their arrests by making their bodies go limp.

Handy and three other activists from the 2019 Flint rescue face two misdemeanor charges for trespassing and disturbing the peace and a felony count for resisting and obstructing an officer. She said she expects the trial in that case to last two to three days and that she could be incarcerated as soon as July 2.

“We’re worried that she could do some serious time, and I know Lauren is very worried,” said Bukovinac.

Handy said she also faces a trespassing charge for a pink rose rescue (a nonreligious version of a Red Rose Rescue) she did in Alexandria, Va, with Bukovinac; an arrest warrant in California; and another case related to a rescue she did in Ohio. She said police have not contacted her and Bukovinac regarding the aborted babies picked up from her apartment in March, although officers implied at the time they might consider criminal charges against Handy for possessing the baby remains.

As of Tuesday, Bukovinac confirmed that the pathologist had not yet examined the babies but that “things still seem to be progressing.”


Leah Savas

Leah is the life beat reporter for World News Group. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College and the World Journalism Institute and resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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