Elderly pro-life activist with ‘significant medical issues’ convicted on FACE Act charge

In a press release Thursday, the Department of Justice said that evidence during the trial showed that the protesters “used social media, text messages, and telephone calls to organize the blockade, and several defendants traveled from northeast and midwestern states to participate in the clinic invasion.”

Before the protest, the defendants “met with other co-conspirators to formulate their tactics, which included making a fake patient appointment to ensure the group’s entry into the clinic, using chains and locks to barricade the facility, and passively resisting arrest to prolong the obstruction.”

“At the outset of the invasion, the defendants forced their way into the clinic, injuring a clinic nurse. The blockade forced one patient to climb through a receptionist window to access the clinic, while another was denied entry as she lay in physical distress in the hallway outside the clinic,” the DOJ said.

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The judgment and verdict document says that per the FACE Act count, “the court further finds that defendant Paula ‘Paulette’ Harlow intentionally injured, intimidated, and interfered with Patient A and clinic employees through force and physical obstruction.”

Patient A refers to an individual who was “seeking to obtain reproductive health services” at the clinic on the day of the protest.

Orenberg told CNA that “Mrs. Harlow is very pleased that the judge agreed to let her remain on her conditions of release pending sentencing.”

The Washington Surgi-Clinic is operated by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, an abortion doctor who was secretly recorded by the pro-life group Live Action in 2019, during which he said that he would allow a child who survived an abortion attempt to die if the child was born during the procedure. 

In April 2022, about two years after the protest, the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), a secular organization that demonstrates against abortion, said that it obtained 115 aborted babies from a medical waste driver who was leaving Santangelo’s clinic. 

PAAU, several lawmakers, and dozens of pro-life activists have pointed out that five of those aborted babies appeared exceptionally developed and have called for an investigation into whether federal abortion law was violated by the clinic, particularly the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

In September some of the other protesters, Jonathan Darnel of Arlington, Virginia; Jean Marshall of Kingston, Massachusetts; and Joan Bell of Montague, New Jersey, were convicted under the same charges as Harlow and are currently detained awaiting sentencing. 

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Darnel told CNA the night before his sentencing that “FACE is a crime, but it shouldn’t be a crime because abortion shouldn’t be tolerated.”

“It’s an honor to be taken like so many others,” he added.

In August, Lauren Handy of Alexandria, Virginia; John Hinshaw of Levittown, New York; Heather Idoni of Linden, Michigan; William Goodman of Bronx, New York; and Herb Geraghty of Pittsburgh were also convicted under the same charges and are awaiting sentencing.

Jay Smith of Freeport, New York, who also participated in the protest, pleaded guilty to a felony FACE Act charge in May. He was sentenced in August to 10 months of incarceration followed by 36 months of supervised release and a special assessment of $100. 

Handy’s lawyers say they plan to appeal her conviction.

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