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Joan Andrews BellLifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Joan Andrews Bell was sentenced to 27 months in jail, community service, and a $125 fine on Wednesday, in the second batch of pro-life advocates convicted last year of blocking access to a scandal-plagued late-term abortion facility in the nation’s capital, a case criticized by pro-life leaders as an egregious example of Biden administration overreach.

On August 29, 2023, a D.C. jury found Lauren Handy, Will Goodman, Heather Idoni, Rosemary “Herb” Geraghty, and John Hinshaw guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and “conspiracy against rights.” The next month, Bell, Jean Marshall, and Jonathan Darnel were convicted of the same; Paulette Harlow’s conviction came in November.

READ: BREAKING: Elderly pro-lifer Jean Marshall sentenced to 24 months, denied home confinement despite health issues

Wednesday’s hearings, before U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, included Geraghty starting at 9 a.m., Darnel at 11 a.m., Marshall at 1:30 p.m., and Bell at 3 p.m.

As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported, the five activists stood trial for blocking access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic in downtown Washington, D.C., in a “traditional rescue” in October 2020. Pro-life “rescues,” of which there were many in the early days of the pro-life movement before the FACE Act became federal law, involve physically entering abortion centers and refusing to leave in an effort to convince women to choose life for their babies (Washington Surgi-Clinic is also where five late-term aborted babies were discovered who may have either been killed by illegal partial-birth abortion procedures or after live-birth).

Following the convictions, Handy and most of the co-defendants were immediately incarcerated while awaiting sentencing. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed sentencing memos calling for Handy to serve between 5.25 and 6.5 years in prison, near the high end of the sentencing guidelines, and for the rest of the defendants to serve a minimum of two years. 

Bell was sentenced to 27 months and has already spent nine in jail, giving her 18 left to serve on top of her fine, which she says she will not pay.

READ: BREAKING: Pro-life veteran Jonathan Darnel sentenced to 25 more months in prison in DC FACE Act case

On Tuesday, Handy was sentenced to serve four years, Hinshaw to one year, and Goodman to 18 months, all with the same $125 fine. Geraghty, Darnell, and Marshall were also sentenced Wednesday, to 27 months (18 left to serve), 34 months (25 left to serve), and 24 months (15 left to serve) respectively.

The cases are the latest in what pro-lifers condemn as a pattern of the pro-abortion Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) weaponizing the criminal justice system to crush its political enemies.

Since May 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade was first leaked, “there have been at least 236 attacks on Catholic churches and at least 90 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers,” the Daily Signal reports. Yet the DOJ “charged only pro-life activists with FACE Act violations in 2022, and has since charged only five individuals with violating the FACE Act by targeting pregnancy centers.” At the same time, it has zealously pursued incidents involving pro-lifers, from the D.C. defendants to Philadelphia sidewalk counselor and Catholic father of seven Mark Houck.

Several of the D.C. Nine have endured mistreatment while in custody above and beyond the charges and sentencing themselves. Heather Idoni, 59, was placed in prolonged solitary confinement for 22 days and deprived of sleep with the lights of her cell kept on continually. Jean Marshall, 74, was deprived of sufficient clothing and heat during extreme freezing winter cold, causing her to contract pneumonia which went untreated for three weeks, and was denied urgent hip surgery. Paulette Harlow, 75, was refused permission to attend Mass while under house arrest.

LifeSiteNews’ extensive coverage of the D.C. Face Act trials can be found here

READ: Pro-life rescuers are very effective in saving lives despite the risk of jail: here’s why