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This article has been updated to include comments from defendant William Goodman.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Jury selection is slated to kick off Wednesday, August 9 for the first of two separate trials involving a group of pro-life activists facing federal charges for their efforts to save preborn babies. If convicted, they could each face over a decade in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

A federal grand jury last year handed down a two-count indictment of nine abortion opponents for allegedly taking part “in a conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services” for blocking access to the notorious Washington-Surgi Clinic in downtown Washington, D.C. in a “traditional rescue” (not a Red Rose Rescue) in October 2020.

Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) director Lauren Handy, 28; Jonathan Darnel, 40; Jay Smith, 32; Paulette Harlow, 73; Jean Marshall, 72; John Hinshaw, 67, Heather Idoni, 61; William Goodman, 52; and pro-life heroine Joan Bell, 74, were charged with conspiracy against rights and violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for the effort. Herb Geraghty, a 25-year-old woman who identifies as a man but staunchly opposes abortion, was charged separately for her involvement in the same “rescue.”

The FACE Act (18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(3)) prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” 

The original indictment, announced by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia in March 2022, accuses the group of traveling from numerous states in the Northeast and Midwest as part of a “conspiracy” to block access to the clinic, which is notorious for performing late-term abortions.

According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, “Handy, Smith, Harlow, Marshall, Hinshaw, Idoni, Goodman and Bell forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes. Once the blockade was established, Darnel live-streamed footage of his co-defendants’ activities.”

The defendants allegedly violated the FACE Act when they made use of “physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient, because they were providing or obtaining reproductive health services.”

A superseding indictment handed down in October 2022 alleged that Geraghty conspired with Handy to carry out the rescue.

If convicted, the defendants each face up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine totaling as much as $350,000.

Thomas More Society senior trial counsel Martin A. Cannon told The Epoch Times that, while the FACE Act violation “under the circumstances charged is a misdemeanor,” the conspiracy charge, if proven, “is a felony.”

According to Cannon, that’s “a lot of overcharging.”

“There’s another federal conspiracy statute that they could have charged under that makes the conspiracy no worse than the underlying charge,” he said. “But if you’re pro-lifers, you don’t get that kind of prosecutorial consideration all the time. They just dogpile on you when they can.”

Will Goodman, one of the defendants in the case, told LifeSiteNews in a Wednesday morning email that he’s “not surprised that we rescuers are being treated unjustly by the DOJ and federal courts when our brothers and sisters in the womb continue to be totally denied all justice and dignity.”

“They are being assigned a gruesome death penalty by the powers of a collaborating federal government,” he said. “The blood is on their hands.”

READ: Pro-lifers arrested in FBI raids, face 11 years in prison for blocking access to late-term abortion mill

As LifeSiteNews previously reported, the activists now facing trial were arrested at their homes and places of employment and hit with the federal charges in March 2022.

Shortly after her arrest, Handy, who heads up the “anti-capitalist” PAAU that opposes abortion but supports LGBT ideology, said that, while “[m]edia reports have stated that we ‘invaded’ the abortion center and ‘disrupted’ women from exercising their ‘reproductive rights’ … that is not what we did.”

“We entered the clinic and sought to love the women who were already there for their abortion procedures,” she said. “We tried to offer them help so they would choose life. We non-violently defended the unborn who were about to be exterminated – the innocent, the most vulnerable, killed in horrific acts of violence and treated as so much trash.” 

“Peaceful pro-lifers committed to non-violent direct action in the American tradition of civil disobedience are being treated like ‘enemies of the state’ and are being refused any legal opportunities to advocate for the constitutional civil rights of the preborn humans in the womb,” Goodman told LifeSite.

“This unprecedented attack on rescuers by the federal government, including terrorizing raids and potentially draconian prison sentences, has not been seen in this country since the enforcement of the immoral Fugitive Slave Act,” he said.

Handy and Goodman will be represented by attorneys with the conservative Catholic Thomas More Society law firm. Geraghty and Idoni have secured pro-life attorneys, Joan Bell will represent herself, and the others will be represented by court-appointed attorneys.

Jay Smith entered a plea agreement in March and was scheduled to be sentenced earlier this week.

LifeSiteNews will be reporting outside the courthouse Wednesday, where supporters are expected to pray and demonstrate encouragement for the defendants.

RELATED: Top Biden DOJ official says overturning Roe made it more ‘urgent’ to target pro-lifers

The impending trial of the activists comes amid a wave of troubling FBI activities targeting pro-lifers and Catholics that has generated outrage from conservatives and triggered congressional interest.

Among those actions, as extensively reported by LifeSiteNews, the FBI carried out guns-drawn raids on pro-life Catholic fathers Mark Houck and Paul Vaughn last year. Houck was fully acquitted of both FACE act charges in January. The Biden administration’s DOJ also indicted pro-life Catholic priest Fr. Fidelis Moscinski on federal charges and hit 11 pro-life activists, including an 87-year-old survivor of a communist concentration camp, with federal charges for a peaceful protest at a Nashville, Tennessee, abortion facility.

1 million names against abortion Join us in urging the Supreme Court to stop the killing