WASHINGTON — What began as DC Police investigating a tip of biohazard material being stored in a Capitol Hill rowhouse has spiraled into a discovery of fetuses and allegations of violations of abortion laws.
DC Police discovered five fetuses at the home of an anti-abortion activist in Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Lauren Handy, a 28-year-old from Alexandria, was the occupant of the home, and had been indicted along with nine others earlier that day by a federal grand jury. She was accused of felony "conspiracy against rights" for a blockade inside a D.C. abortion clinic in October 2020.
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 and was 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 a 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.”
If convicted, Handy and her co-defendants each face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $350,000.
WUSA9 reporters were outside a Capitol Hill rowhome occupied by Handy when 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 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."
And freak out they did, when DC Police confirmed to WUSA9 on Thursday that what was taken out of the house were the remains of five fetuses.
DC Police Executive Assist. Chief of Police Ashan M. Benedict told reporters 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.
ABOUT LAUREN HANDY
Handy is a leader of the group Progressive Anti-Abortion (PAAU) and a self-described "Catholic anarcho mutualist" specializing in reaching young anti-abortion activists. Her bio also says she creates "trans inclusive spaces within the pro-life movement."
Tweets from the group stated that it plans to address the claims surrounding the "5 deceased children" at a press conference in D.C. on April 5. PAAU claims that before the arrest, an anti-abortion activist "privately arranged for the Washington, D.C., Police homicide unit to pick up five recently-discovered bodies of aborted babies for forensic examination." That has not yet been confirmed by police.
The group further claimed that the fetuses were given to police based on PAAU's suspicion that the abortions were conducted in possible violation of the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act and the Born Alive Protection Act. These claims have not yet been addressed by law enforcement.
PAAU says that at its news conference on April 5, it will address where the fetuses came from and how many in total were acquired besides the five in police custody, claiming there are more fetuses that have not been turned over to police.
Police have not yet commented on any other remains. WUSA9 reached out to both Handy and PAAU for comment but has not received a response from either attempt.
Handy is due in federal court Monday at 11 a.m.
LAUREN HANDY PAST LEGAL ISSUES
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.
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, which also included William Goodman of Michigan, 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. Goodman is one of the nine indicted along with Handy in the October 2020 incident.
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.”
Handy's co-defendant Darnel also 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.