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Caroline Davis during her 2020 arrest in Grand Rapids, MIFile

Washington, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — When 24-year-old Caroline Davis entered the courtroom to testify against her former friends as a government witness in the United States v. Handy, the tension was already high. Over the course of two days of emotionally charged testimony, Davis gave prosecutors just what they wanted, describing her “change of heart and perspective” as a former abortion rescuer who struck a plea deal and cooperation agreement with the government, and then lambasting those she had volunteered with as people who “think their beliefs in God supersede the law.”  

Davis seemed to relish the platform she was given. She smiled and chuckled at times, and when asked by defense attorney Robert Dunn if she was worried about going to prison if she didn’t cooperate with the government, she boldly questioned him, “Do you want to know why I’m doing this?” Dunn demurred, but when responding to government attorney Sanjay Patel, Davis seized the opportunity to attack rescuers as “overzealous” and “foolish” activists trying to make a “dramatic spectacle” and “not helping to end abortion.” Davis seemed to grow in confidence, as she described how she was led to participate in rescues after she thought she was being inspired by the Holy Spirit, but explained she was someone who had been “very impressionable…but trying to change.”  

According to Davis, her friendship with defendant Heather Idoni was like a mother-daughter relationship, and it was Idoni who proposed the idea of her participating in the rescue at the Washington Surgi-Clinic on October 22, 2020.    

The courtroom was spellbound as Davis portrayed herself as a naive Christian manipulated by fundamentalist and fanatical rescuers. She sat straight in her chair, looked directly at members of the jury and, with all the zeal of a convert, denounced rescuers as harmful to the pro-life cause, which she said she still believes in. As dramatic courtroom showdowns go, it was a stunning performance by an attractive young woman who appeared to be enjoying her starring role.

Davis’ appearance and anti-rescue rhetoric in this high-profile case will no doubt reignite an already divisive issue in the pro-life movement about the pros and cons of rescues. Exactly what defines a “rescue” differs according to whom you ask but can range from activists going into abortion facilities to offer roses to women in the waiting room, to much more aggressive actions involving the blocking of doors and chaining oneself down. These types of rescues are like the old Civil Rights “sit-ins” of the 1960s, where getting arrested was part of the plan, and indeed, evidence in this case has demonstrated that many of the pro-life activists who took part in the action at the Washington Surgi Clinic had volunteered in advance to be arrested.   

It is notable that none of the many pro-life organizations based in Washington, D.C., have been present at the United States v. Handy trial. Last week, after I posted LifeSite’s coverage of the press conference that took place before the trial, a member of one of the largest pro-life organizations in the United States befriended me on Facebook and moments later posted a banner on her page announcing that she does not support the rescue movement. Many of her Facebook friends promptly responded with their approval of her post, condemning rescuers as problems for sidewalk counselors who are regularly in front of the abortion clinics, attempting to help women in a non-aggressive fashion. The gist of their complaints is that rescuers are just out to get attention for themselves and, as Davis testified, cause more harm than good. 

READ: DC FACE trial: Pro-life defense not allowed to say ‘infanticide,’ ‘abortion,’ or ‘innocent lives’

Just weeks before the United States v. Handy, I interviewed defendant Will Goodman about Father Fidelis Moscinski, and whether the numerous jail sentences that he endures because of rescues is worth it. “Our mission isn’t to help the movement,” Goodman said. “Our mission is to help the babies, and what Father Fidelis says is, ‘What if we, or one of our loved ones was in immediate danger of being killed by dismemberment, painful dismemberment? Would we not want the full measure of protection to be afforded to us? Would we not want that one that we love so much to be protected by people who are willing to give all?’ And what Father Fidelis shows is that he’s not about the politics. He’s not about a movement, per se. He’s all about serving these pregnant mothers and loving these children and sacrificing for them so that their lives may be saved.” And Goodman points out that rescues are effective. “What we’ve seen through Red Rose Rescue is that abortion centers have closed, mothers have chosen life, and there are babies that are alive today because of their work.”   

Is there a price to pay, especially in high profile cases such as the United States v. Handy, where secular media latches onto the fanatical, dangerous pro-life zealot narrative, which only serves to energize pro-abortion organizations and pro-abortion politicians who in turn fundraise and introduce more pro-abortion legislation, such as the FACE act?   

In the wake of the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade, the pro-life cause has taken a beating with eight states passing pro-abortion measures since November. After red-leaning state Ohio became the latest to succumb to the pro-abortion wave, already weak-kneed Republicans running for re-election across the country will do all they can to avoid taking about abortion, while Democrats zero in on an issue they see as the key to victory.    

Yet the new wave of rescuers vow to keep fighting. “There is no shame in passionately and lovingly loving our neighbors as ourselves,” said defendant Lauren Handy before the beginning of the trial. “The unborn are our neighbors, and we have a moral and ethical obligation to love them in action and words.”   

With the weight of the federal government taking aim at rescuers in the glare of the national spotlight, the legitimacy and ethics of rescue is on trial once again, in the same way it was in the 1990’s when the FACE Act nearly wiped it out.   

I’ve been wrestling with it myself. Davis was compelling in describing her conversion away from believing in rescue, and the serious pro-life activists opposed to it do make good arguments. Rescue is a white-knuckle undertaking, and some of the security video and scenes which have played out during two days of emotional testimony in the United States v. Handy have been gut wrenching to witness.

Yesterday an Ohio woman who immigrated to the United States from India in 2016, recalled through tears how she was prevented from entering the doors of the abortion facility to abort her severely developmentally damaged baby, who she learned would not survive birth. She collapsed in the hallway, writhing in pain while rescuers attempted to console her and convince her not to abort her child. It was one of the most painful scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time. How could anyone not have total sympathy for her?    

But the babies who are aborted every week at the Washington Surgi Clinic also deserve sympathy and protection. We know that abortionist Cesare Santangelo is a serial killer who slaughters full-term, healthy children. We have the evidence, and the government of the United States refuses to allow that evidence to be presented to the jury in the United States v. Handy.   

As I’ve been driving back and forth from Front Royal, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., to attend the trial, I’ve been listening to “King: A Life,” the outstanding new biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. One quote from King has stuck with me as I’ve sat through hours of testimony in this trial. 

King led unlawful marches throughout the South during the very worst of the violent attacks against black Americans, who were demanding their dignity as human beings. “An unjust law,” said King, “is no law at all.” 

LifeSiteNews encourages our readers to pray for all the pro-lifers currently facing trial in D.C., and for Caroline Davis.

READ: Defense attorney in DC FACE Act trial files notice on appeals court decision that backed pro-lifers