(The Hill) — A group of anti-abortion activists, including a woman who famously stored fetal remains in a refrigerator in her Washington, D.C., row house basement, has been convicted of violating federal law after blockading the Washington Surgi-Clinic in October 2020.
Lauren Handy, the group’s leader and a previously convicted anti-abortion advocate who recruited activists from several states to organize the blockade, as well as four other members of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, were convicted by a jury Tuesday on two felony counts each of conspiracy against rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 federal law that makes it illegal to physically obstruct or threaten a person attempting to obtain reproductive health services or providers.
The other defendants were John Hinshaw of Levittown, N.Y.; Heather Idoni of Linden, Mich.; William Goodman of New York, and Herb Geraghty of Pittsburgh.
D.C. Police body camera footage revealed that one patient, who testified under a pseudonym, had no other choice but to climb through a window into the reception area after members of the group took furniture from the waiting room to barricade the clinic’s entrance.
Authorities said they also used chains, ropes and bike locks to tie themselves to chairs and one another and yelled at incoming patients, telling them they were “killing babies” and “going to hell.”
Another woman, who had traveled from Ohio to receive an abortion, said she collapsed on the floor outside the clinic in pain while her husband pleaded with the activists to stop, according to reports from WUSA9.
A nurse who was working at the clinic that day sustained a severe ankle injury as activists, who had hidden in an emergency stairwell, stormed the clinic, following Handy’s instructions, according to officials.
“They planned their crime carefully, to take over that clinic, block access to reproductive services and interfere with others’ rights,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb said during his closing arguments. “The idea of deliberately breaking the law, to them, was sexy.”
The defendants, who broadcast the three-hour blockade live on Facebook, are now facing up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $350,000.
U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered them immediately detained ahead of their sentencing later this year.
Steve Crampton of the Thomas Moore Society, who helped defend Handy during the trial, told the group’s supporters outside the courthouse that an appeal would be launched, saying that the case was “far from over.”
“Miss Handy is a person who has the courage of her convictions,” Crampton reportedly said. “Willing to do time — obviously doesn’t want to do time. While she will fight on, we intend to fight on as well at the Thomas Moore Society.”
Another group of four co-defendants who were arrested in connection with the blockade are set to go on trial next week.