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Feds charge anti-abortion activists with 'conspiracy against rights'

Anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy and eight others are charged with using chains and rope to blockade the Washington Surgi-Clinic in 2020.

WASHINGTON — UPDATE: On Thursday, DC Police confirmed they had found five fetuses in the home of anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy. Read more here.

Nine anti-abortion activists have been indicted on federal felony charges for blocking the entrance to a D.C. clinic in October 2020.

The indictment was unsealed Wednesday in D.C. District Court charging a group of activists from around the country with forcing their way into the Washington Surgi-Clinic on F Street NW and using chains and rope to block the entrance.

Charged in the indictment are:

  • Lauren Handy, of Virginia;
  • Jonathan Darnell, of Virginia;
  • Jay Smith, of New York;
  • Paulette Harlow, of Massachusetts;
  • Jean Marshall, of Massachusetts;
  • John Hinshaw, of New York;
  • Heather Idoni, of Michigan;
  • William Goodman, of Michigan;
  • Joan Bell, of New Jersey.

According to the indictment, Handy called the clinic pretending to be a woman named “Hazel Jenkins” who needed an abortion and made an appointment for the morning of Oct. 22, 2020. That morning, Handy allegedly approached a clinic employee and said she was Hazel Jenkins there for her appointment. When the employee opened the door, the indictment says, Handy and the other co-defendants forced their way into the clinic. In the process they allegedly knocked the clinic employee over, causing her to injure her ankle.

Once inside, the defendants allegedly moved chairs to block the entrance to the clinic’s treatment area and used chains and rope to tie them together.

While inside, Darnell allegedly livestreamed the blockade, saying at one point, “We have people intervening physically with their bodies to prevent women from entering the clinic to murder their children.”

The indictment charges all nine defendants with conspiracy against rights and clinic access obstruction. The first count is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Handy, who founded the anti-abortion group Mercy Missions, has a long history of protests at clinics around the country. In 2019, she and another group of protesters that also included Goodman, were charged with a felony for allegedly resisting arrest at an abortion clinic in Michigan. That charge was reduced earlier this year to misdemeanor trespassing.  

Darnell as well has been involved in other anti-abortion protests in the D.C. area. In 2019, WUSA9 reported that he joined a group of protestors who set up outside Dunbar High School with graphic anti-abortion posters.

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