Prosecutors say activists tried to stop patients from having abortions.
The Justice Department has charged nine anti-abortion protesters with conspiring to obstruct access to a women’s reproductive health facility in Washington, DC, in October 2020, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors say Lauren Handy, Jonathan Darnel, Jay Smith, Paula Harlow, Jean Marshall, John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, William Goodman and Joan Bell all invaded the unnamed health facility on October 22, 2020 and created a blockade to prevent patients to receive abortions and other reproductive health services.
All were charged with two counts of conspiring against the civil rights of individuals and obstructing access to the clinic. If convicted, they each face a maximum of 11 years in prison. Lawyers for each defendant were not listed on their court roll Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police Department raided a home – where Handy, a prominent anti-abortion activist who once faced state charges for staging a similar protest at a Michigan clinic, lives, said she told WUSA. Charges in Michigan were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Police said they were acting on a report that biohazardous material was in the home.
The department said officers found five fetuses at the home. “After further investigation, MPD located five fetuses inside a residence at the scene,” MPD said in a statement. “The fetuses were recovered by the DC Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Handy told WUSA she expected the raid “to happen sooner or later.”
According to the indictment, all of the individuals traveled to DC to participate in the blockade under Handy’s direction. The group is called Red Rose Rescue; during their demonstrations in the clinics, they usually distribute red roses to women in the waiting rooms of the clinics.
Handy allegedly called the clinic days before their protest, telling them she was a woman named Hazel Jenkins who needed treatment and had made an appointment for the morning of Oct. 22, according to the indictment.
While at the DC clinic, prosecutors said protesters blocked two doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and rope while livestreaming their actions on Facebook.
Darnel began the livestream by saying, “We have people physically intervening with their bodies to prevent women from entering the clinic to murder their children,” the indictment states.