Lawyers for pro-life advocate Lauren Handy filed an emergency motion Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC, to release her from prison while she awaits sentencing under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
On August 29, a federal jury found Handy and five fellow protesters guilty of violating the FACE Act. The defendants were arrested in March 2022, 18 months after their alleged actions outside a DC abortion facility. If convicted, they face up to 11 years in federal prison.
Senior Counsel Steve Crampton of the Thomas More Society (TMS), which represented Handy, said in a statement:
In an unexpected twist, the Court found that because the violation of FACE — in this case — was a crime of ‘violence,’ all five defendants must be immediately incarcerated. So, the defendants were led out of the courtroom by an army of U.S. Marshals. This is an outrage, and the one thing the defendants had really agreed upon was to remain non-violent. The real violence is what happens during the abortion procedure.
Crampton is asking the court to allow those convicted to await sentencing at home. The TMS motion notes that Handy “is entitled to such emergency reconsideration because, under federal statute and binding precedents … the FACE Act is not categorically a ‘crime of violence.’”
Handy’s defense rested in part on the fact that her intention was specifically non-violent prevention of infanticide. The TMS team provided recorded evidence that an abortionist, Dr. Cesare Santangelo, stated that he left infants born alive during an abortion to die of exposure.
The FACE Act was first proposed by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, D-NY, in 1993. Democrats overwhelmingly supported the legislation, and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Primarily known as a law pushed by pro-abortion politicians to limit pro-life activity on or near the properties of abortion facilities, the law also includes safeguards for houses of worship.
In May 2023, as reported by CatholicVote, the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held a hearing on “Revisiting the Implications of the FACE Act.” The FACE Act forbids not only acts against abortion facilities but also acts against churches and pro-life medical centers.
Since 2021, the Department of Justice and FBI have prosecuted dozens of pro-life Americans, many of them Catholic, under the FACE Act. The administration has not focused its efforts on pro-abortion criminals – despite an explosion of violence and threats against Catholic churches and pro-life clinics.
In September 2022, FBI agents stormed the home of Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck and arrested him at gunpoint in front of his wife and seven children. The Biden Justice Department charged Houck under the FACE Act for an alleged altercation outside an abortion facility. He was later acquitted, however.
Defund the FACE Act
CatholicVote joined with a coalition of Republican lawmakers calling for the repeal of the FACE Act. “While it ostensibly protects abortion clinics, churches, and pregnancy resource centers, recent events have shown that the FACE Act has become a political weapon wielded by the Biden administration against pro-lifers,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch.
CatholicVote Director of Governmental Affairs Tom McClusky added:
Defunding the FACE Act is a great first step in holding the Department of Justice accountable for its failure to apply the law impartially. This latest case of imprisoning pro-life activists before sentencing only drives home the urgency of ending the weaponization of this particular law by the Biden administration.