When Washington, D.C., police raided the apartment where anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy lives and removed red biohazard bags and coolers yesterday, Handy declined to tell a local news reporter what was in the evidence bags, but noted that “people would freak out when they heard.” Today, police said they found five human fetuses.
The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) confirmed to Jezebel that, yesterday, officers responded to a tip that there was “biohazard material” in a home on the 400 block of 6th Street, SE, in Capitol Hill. An MPD spokesperson said in a statement that “upon further investigation, MPD located five fetuses inside a residence at the location. The fetuses were collected by the DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. This is currently a pending investigation.” It’s not clear where or when or how or why Handy obtained the fetuses.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an indictment of Handy and eight others on felony charges. The group is charged with “conspiracy against rights” and with violating the FACE Act, a federal law that protects people’s ability to enter abortion clinics, connected to allegedly invading a D.C.-area abortion clinic on October 22, 2020, and refusing to leave.
In the days leading up to the group’s trip to Washington Surgi-Clinic on F Street, Handy is alleged to have made an abortion appointment as “Hazel Jenkins.” (Washington Surgi-Clinic isn’t named in the federal indictment, but Jezebel obtained a DC police report from the date of the invasion confirming it.) Before the clinic opened for the day, Handy approached a clinic staff member, mentioning they had an appointment under the name Hazel Jenkins.
Then, the indictment alleges, co-defendant Jonathan Darnel started a Facebook event called “No one dies today” with the note “Starting soon! Tune in!”
When a clinic staffer opened the front door, Handy and seven other co-defendants pushed it open and burst into the waiting room. The indictment alleges this caused one clinic staffer to sprain their ankle. Handy is alleged to have led the action to block the clinic doors with chairs from the waiting room. Paula “Paulette” Harlow allegedly brought a chain and rope to tie five of the co-defendants together, further obstructing the clinic.
While this was happening inside, Darnel was outside the clinic, broadcasting on Facebook Live. “We have people intervening physically with their bodies to prevent women from entering the clinic to murder their clinic,” Darnel said, according to the indictment.
The DOJ said that if the defendants are convicted of the offenses, they each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $350,000.
Handy is the director of activism for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU). Jezebel contacted PAAU for comment and will update this story when we hear back. The group claimed on Twitter that it believed the abortions for the five fetuses may have violated two federal laws. PAAU said it would hold a press conference on Tuesday, April 5, and hinted it has more fetuses in its possession.
Ashan Benedict, MPD’s executive assistant chief of police, disputed the claim that the abortions violated any laws at a press conference on Thursday. Benedict said “those fetuses were aborted in accordance with D.C. law, so we are not investigating this incident along those lines. There doesn’t seem to be anything criminal in nature right now about that, except for how they got into this house, and so we’ll continue to look at that.”
Jezebel has reached out to Mary Manning Petras, who is listed as Handy’s public defender. The Department of Justice and a representative at Washington Surgi-Clinic declined our request for comment.
This is a breaking news post and will be updated.