One woman was forced to climb through a window in order to access the Washington, D.C., abortion clinic at the heart of the trial against anti-abortion activists in federal court this week. Prosecutors accused Lauren Handy (of hiding fetuses in her rented brownstone fame), John Hinshaw, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and Herb Geraghty of violating federal law by blockading the Washington Surgi-Clinic in northwest part of the nation’s capitol.
The 27-year-old witness was a woman from Pennsylvania who had been dropped off near the front of the clinic in late October 2020 while her boyfriend parked. Anti-abortion protesters met “Ashley Jones”—a pseudonym granted for her privacy and safety—near the entrance of the clinic. They grabbed at her, she testified, while following her to the doors. They told her she was going to hell. The protesters were so persistant that Jones said she was unable to enter the clinic either by a door for patients or a separate door for clinic staff.
“I tried to be nice with them in the elevator, but they weren’t being nice,” she said, according to CBS affiliate WUSA9. “They wouldn’t stop. They were just repeating the same things they were saying. They were being aggressive and mean. I was just trying to go to my appointment. Everything else was just very distracting.”
The group of defendants is accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a law originally passed in 1994. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjay H. Patel really hammered home that “to block clinic access is a crime” and accused the group of taking away “crucial reproductive health care” from patients. “This is not about pro-life or pro-choice,” Patel said, according to the Washington Post. “This is about the law, and the defendants are not allowed to break the law.”
Patel said the group that stormed the D.C. clinic was coordinated and prepared with a social media plan that included broadcasting on Facebook Live.
A clinic employee testified Wednesday that Handy, booked into the clinic as “Hazel Jenkins,” rushed the door along with other protesters. Video evidence at the trial showed Handy directing process of building the blockade.
Jones, the Pennsylvania woman, was also on the video. “How is this allowed?” Jones cried, “visibly and audily distraught,” according to WUSA9.
In the video, Jones can be heard sobbing. “Why are you allowing them to do this? Please stop. Leave me alone,” she said. Eventually, Jones crawled through a window into the clinic’s front room in order to receive her treatment.
Caroline Davis, a 24-year-old paralegal who testified against the five defendants in exchange for a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony, said Handy made her “Hazel Jenkins” appointment to fill the slot and prevent someone from getting a sought abortion, according to the Washington Post. Davis testified she did not attend the blockade but offered coordination support for the group’s so-called “rescue” operations.
Handy, the most notable of the group, was sentenced on state charges for trespassing at a Virginia clinic in 2021. She faced 30 days in jail as well as 45 days in jail for another clinic invasion in Michigan in 2019. Prosecutors alleged Handy planned two more while free on pretrial release in the D.C. case.
The trial is scheduled to continue for the next three weeks.