Pro-Life Grandmother Sentenced to 24 Months in Prison for 2020 D.C. Abortion Clinic Protest

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Heather Idoni, 59, was sentenced to 24 months in prison under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights” for participating in an abortion clinic protest in Washington, DC, in October 2020.

The Department of Justice announced that she would receive credit for the nine months she has already served since being found guilty in August 2023.

In addition to Idoni’s sentencing, seven other pro-life activists were also given prison sentences for protesting at the Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, DC.

Lauren Handy, 30, a Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) activist, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison with credit for the nine months she has already spent in jail.

John Hinshaw, 69, received a 21-month prison sentence, and William Goodman, 54, was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Both Hinshaw and Goodman were granted credit for time served according to the DOJ.

Jonathan Darnel, a 42-year-old Iraq war veteran who completed two tours, was sentenced to 34 months in prison with credit for time served last Wednesday.

Herb Geraghty, a 27-year-old pro-life atheist, received a 27-month prison sentence with credit for time served. Jean Marshall, 74, was given a 24-month prison sentence, and Joan Bell, 76, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, as reported by the DOJ.

Additionally, Paulette Harlow, a 75-year-old activist, is set to be sentenced in late May. Idoni is also awaiting sentencing in July on different FACE Act charges related to an abortion clinic protest in Tennessee.

In March 2023, Jay Smith received a ten-month prison sentence.

House Republicans recently raised concerns about alleged mistreatment of Marshall and Idoni while they were awaiting sentencing in jail.

They sent a letter to the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons addressing these reports.

The FACE Act prohibits threats of force, obstruction, and property damage aimed at disrupting reproductive health care services.

The conspiracy against rights charge makes it illegal for two or more people to conspire to harm or intimidate someone in the United States for exercising their constitutional or legal rights.

Prosecutors claimed that the activists organized a blockade using chains and locks to barricade an abortion clinic, resulting in a nurse being injured and women being unable to access the clinic through the front entrance.

“Some simply kneeled and prayed at Santangelo’s facility, some passed out pro-life literature and counseled abortion-minded women, and others roped and chained themselves together inside the facility,” according the Handy’s attorneys from the Thomas More Society, which has represented other pro-life activists like Mark Houck and David Daleiden.

The DOJ filed charges in the same month that Handy and PAAU’s founder and former executive director Terrisa Bukovinac allegedly discovered the remains of around 115 aborted babies in a waste box from the Washington Surgi-Clinic.

They claim that five of these babies may have been partially aborted or killed after birth, which would violate federal law.

The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia had previously stated that they were investigating the discovery of the babies but not the clinic’s abortionist, Dr. Cesare Santangelo.

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the DOJ has notably charged more pro-life activists under the FACE Act than pro-abortion activists.

FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged in November 2022 that around 70 percent of abortion-related threats of violence in the United States since Dobbs have been directed at pro-life groups.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also acknowledged in December during remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary that the end of Roe v. Wade has increased “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work, including enforcing the FACE Act to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.

Since the Dobbs leak, there have been numerous attacks on pregnancy centers, but only a few pro-abortion activists have been arrested in states such as Florida, New York, and Ohio.

Attorney General Merrick Garland faced questions from Republicans in March 2023 regarding the unequal enforcement of these incidents.

He justified the higher prosecution rate of pro-life activists by claiming they commit crimes during the day, while pro-abortion activists tend to strike at night.

Some Republicans and pro-life activists are now advocating for the repeal of the FACE Act, arguing that the Biden administration has misused this law to target its political adversaries.

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