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9 Pro-lifers to be sentenced this week under FACE Act

Dank Prison

Fer Gregory | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 05/14/24

Several of the defendants have reported mistreatment during their time in jail, and all face possible imprisonment for up to 11 years.

Nine pro-lifers who were arrested and found guilty of blocking abortion clinics under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act will be sentenced this week in Washington, DC. Each of the defendants faces up to 11 years of imprisonment for the FACE Act violations and “conspiracy against rights,” for cases that are almost certain to head to the court of appeals. 

Seven of the nine defendants will be sentenced this week, with Lauren Handy, John Hinshaw, and Will Goodman being sentenced on Tuesday, and Herb (Rosemary) Geraghty, Jonathan Darnel, Jean Marshall, and Joan Andrews Bell sentenced on Thursday. Heather Idoni and Paulette Harlow’s sentencing days have been rescheduled until May 21 and 31 respectively. 

These nine defendants – with the exception of Paulette Harlow, 75, who is under house arrest – have been jailed for 9 months. During that time, several of the defendants have made troubling reports of mistreatment.

Heather Idoni, a 59-year-old mother of 15 (with 10 adoptive children), was forced to spend 22 days in solitary confinement. During that time, she reported the lights in her cell were never turned off, which deprived her of sleep. In addition, the courts forced her to wear chains usually reserved for the most violent offenders when she appeared at her pre-trial hearing, in March. 

Even more egregious was the deprivation of required warm clothing and heat for Jean Marshall. This 74-year-old woman caught pneumonia after spending nights not warm enough during the winter months, an illness that went untreated for three weeks. Furthermore, she was denied physician-advised surgery to her hip that has resulted in the debilitation of her right leg, which she has reported remains in excruciating pain. 

In the case of Paulette Harlow, the judge refused her request to attend weekly Mass for the duration of her house arrest. The rejection of this request reportedly came at the insistence of the Department of Justice and has raised questions of whether or not such a decision infringes upon religious freedom. 

While their situation seems tense, an article written for LifeSite by one of the defendants, John Hinshaw, gives readers an idea of the mindset of the defendants, who still seem to hold fast to the pro-life mission. Hinshaw compared their cases to those of “abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights movement,” noting that no such group was ever threatened with 11 years of imprisonment

He compared the FACE Act to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required that escaped slaves be returned to their owners even if they were discovered in a free state. He suggested that the two were similar, because they “try to make us all complicit in their evil.” He wrote: 

“To our ruling class, abortion is sacred; we sacrifice children to it, and they are determined we all genuflect. This I wrote in response to a Michael Novak column 30 years ago, in harmony with Lincoln’s perspective on slavery: We will either lay all our laws, legal systems and institutions at the feet and service of abortion or we will eradicate it. As with slavery, compromise is cooperation.”

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