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'People would freak out when they heard' | 5 fetuses discovered in house where anti-abortion activist was staying

Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, where Lauren Handy serves as director of activism, said it plans to hold a press conference about the incident next week.

WASHINGTON — DC Police discovered five fetuses at the home of an anti-abortion activist in Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the department has confirmed to WUSA9.

Officers responded shortly after noon to a home on the 400 block of 6th Street SE to investigate a tip about potential bio-hazard material in the residence. Once inside, they located the fetuses. The remains were collected by the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The home was occupied by Lauren Handy, an anti-abortion activist who was indicted along with eight others Wednesday by a federal grand jury. Handy is accused of felony conspiracy against rights for a blockade inside a D.C. abortion clinic in October 2020.

WUSA9’s camera was outside as DC Police homicide and forensic services detectives took evidence out in red biohazard bags and coolers from the rowhouse's basement. 

Handy declined to speak on camera Wednesday, but told WUSA9 she expected the raid to happen "sooner or later." She also declined to say what was in the coolers, saying only that "people would freak out when they heard."

DC Police Executive Assist. Chief of Police Ashan M. Benedict told reporters Thursday the fetuses appeared to have been aborted in accordance with D.C. law.

"There doesn't appear to be anything criminal about that — except for how they got into that house," Benedict said.

Benedict said the investigation that led officers to Handy's home was separate from the federal investigation that resulted in her indictment Wednesday. He declined to comment on whether the department was working with agencies in other states, saying it was "day one" of the case.

WUSA9 reached out to Handy on Thursday for comment but did not immediately receive a response. 

Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, where Handy serves as director of activism, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment but tweeted later Thursday that the organization planned to "address the claims surrounding the 5 deceased children found at Lauren Handy's apartment at press conference in DC." The press conference is to take place on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., but no other information was given. 

D.C. Superior Court records show Handy has a history of legal issues related to her anti-abortion activities. A D.C. charter school filed a civil complaint against her for trespassing in December 2015. She was arrested for unlawful assembly outside the school earlier that year, and at different locations in 2019 and in January for unlawful entry and blocking an entrance. Only of those cases resulted in more than a ticket. That case stemmed from a March 2019 arrest at the Washington Surgi-Clinic — the same clinic in the indictment Handy now faces. The charge was dropped in July 2019 for want of prosecution.

In the indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors say 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, one of Handy's co-defendants, Jonathan Darnel, allegedly live-streamed 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.

Charged in the indictment are:

  • Lauren Handy, of Virginia/D.C.;
  • 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.

Handy, who founded the anti-abortion group Mercy Missions, hasn't limited her anti-abortion activities to D.C. 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.  

Laura Meyers, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said the group of anti-abortion activists was familiar to her.

“They have protested at our facility on 4th Street many times and have been disruptive," Meyers said. "They have harassed patients, they have obstructed patients and no one should have to experience that intimidation for trying to access health care.”

Darnel 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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