A group of five anti-abortion activists is now facing up to ten years in prison after being convicted for their involvement in a 2020 protest at a Washington, D.C. abortion clinic.
All five members of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) group were found guilty of conspiring to prevent others from exercising their rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The defendants were Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, and Will Goodman who were among eleven total PAAU members taking part in the October 22nd demonstration.
The FACE Act states that it is illegal to use any form of physical force to restrict someone’s access to reproductive services. Lawyers representing the defendants had argued that no laws were broken, citing video footage from the event as evidence of this.
The court, however, concluded that the defendant’s conduct during the gathering involved violent action – thus violating the FACE Act. Nonviolent violations of the law usually come with a one-year prison sentence, but the court determined that the gravity of the situation warranted a more severe sentence, as the five PAAU members could now receive a maximum ten-year jail term along with immediate incarceration.
The incident comes at a time of increased tensions between pro-life and pro-choice activists, with protesters taking to the streets on both sides of the debate. Furthermore, the case serves as an example of how such demonstrations can lead to legal consequences and long prison sentences.
As for the remaining individuals involved in the incident, one has received a plea deal while the other five are yet to face their own trial.
While many members of the progressive community have been outraged by the verdict, others have been in support of the court’s decision. Ultimately, both sides of the abortion debate agree that this case should serve as a cautionary tale for all protesters. As such, it is important to bear in mind that engaging in acts of violence, regardless of personal views, is never acceptable and could have serious legal implications.