A federal jury convicted three pro-life activists on Friday for trying to stop abortions from taking place at a Washington, D.C., abortion facility.
A jury convicted Jonathan Darnel (41), Jean Marshall (73), and Joan Bell (74) of a felony conspiracy against rights and a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The Justice Department, which is prosecuting the case, said in a release that the defendants were involved in a conspiracy to blockade the abortion clinic.
“The defendants each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000,” the DOJ release says. “U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who presided over the trial, ordered the defendants immediately detained as required by statute. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.”
These three convictions follow the late August convictions of pro-life activists Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and John Hinshaw, who were also found guilty of conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act.
All of the pro-life activists believe that abortion is the murder of a human child and that blocking the entrance to the abortion clinic saves human lives. The FACE Act, which “prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services,” applies to pro-life pregnancy centers as well as to abortion facilities, according to DOJ guidance. The Biden DOJ has prosecuted more cases against pro-life protesters than against vandals targeting pro-life centers, however.
The Justice Department has said that it is targeting pro-life activists through the FACE Act as a response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, according to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
In December, Gupta delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s 65th Anniversary, where she described the overturn of Roe v. Wade as a “devastating blow to women throughout the country” that took away “the constitutional right to abortion” and increased “the urgency” of the DOJ’s work—including the “enforcement of the FACE Act, to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”
The DOJ charged at least 26 pro-life individuals in 2022 with violations of the FACE Act. No far-left attackers had been charged with the FACE Act in 2022, and as of Monday, the DOJ has charged only four people with FACE Act violations in 2023 for attacking Florida pro-life pregnancy centers.
Meanwhile, at least 88 pro-life groups and 192 Catholic churches have been attacked since the May leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion indicating that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, according to Catholic Vote trackers. Vandals often tagged these buildings with threats such as “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” making the attacks incidents of suspected pro-abortion violence that federal authorities, such as the FBI, have been slow to investigate.
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