Five anti-abortion activists, including one who was found to have kept five fetuses in her home last year, were found guilty of federal civil rights offenses on Tuesday after blocking access to an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C., in 2020.
Lauren Handy of Virginia, who prosecutors said directed the invasion and blockade of the abortion clinic on Oct. 22, 2020, and her co-defendants were each convicted of a felony charge of conspiracy against rights and of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The law makes it a crime to threaten, obstruct or injure a person seeking access to a reproductive health clinic or to damage clinic property.
Prosecutors said that Ms. Handy had arrived for an appointment she had made at the clinic under a false name. She and other defendants “forcefully pushed” their way into the waiting room and used their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes to block its doors, prosecutors said.
The defendants, who were livestreaming their blockade on Facebook, blocked a patient from entering the treatment area and left a nurse with a sprained ankle, prosecutors said.
Also convicted in the case were Herb Geraghty of Pittsburgh; William Goodman of the Bronx; John Hinshaw of Levittown, N.Y.; and Heather Idoni of Linden, Mich. They each face up to 11 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Four others who were charged in connection with the clinic’s blockade are scheduled go on trial next week. A 10th defendant pleaded guilty in March.
Ms. Handy became the focus of widespread public attention in March 2022, the day after she was charged in connection with the clinic blockade, when the police announced they had found five fetuses in a home that the anti-abortion group said was hers. The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said investigators had acted on a tip about “potential biohazard material.”
The local CBS affiliate television station WUSA reported at the time that investigators carried evidence out of Ms. Handy’s basement in red biohazard bags and coolers. Ms. Handy declined to say what was in the coolers, but said “people would freak out when they heard,” the station reported.
The investigation into the fetuses was ongoing, and no one has been charged in connection with the discovery, the police said on Wednesday. The police department has previously said that the abortions of the fetuses were legal under D.C. law and that their investigation would focus on how the remains ended up in the house.
Ms. Handy and the founder of the anti-abortion group, Terrisa Bukovinac, claimed that they obtained a box of 115 fetuses from the driver of a medical waste truck outside the clinic that Ms. Handy previously blockaded.
The activists claimed that they buried 110 of the fetuses and said that their lawyer had asked the police to retrieve the five remaining ones from her home, saying they were considered evidence of violations of federal laws. The medical waste company that owned the truck denied that account and said it was cooperating with the authorities.
Ms. Handy and her co-defendants have already taken steps to appeal their convictions, the executive director of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, Caroline Taylor Smith, said in a phone interview.
Because the federal jury found that the defendants acted with violent force, they were immediately taken into custody and held at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, Ms. Smith said, adding that the group was “more motivated than ever” to push for the repeal of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
The federal law was passed in 1994 in response to an escalation in violent attacks by anti-abortion activists on clinics and doctors, including on Dr. David Gunn, who was fatally shot during a protest outside his clinic in Pensacola, Fla., in 1993.
Dr. Gunn’s murder is believed to be the first targeted killing of an abortion provider in the United States.