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Paulette Harlow

Elderly pro-life activist imprisoned for abortion clinic protest

An elderly woman with a debilitating illness was sentenced to imprisonment for an abortion clinic protest.

by Anne Ng

Paulette Harlow was sentenced on May 31 to 24 months in prison after being convicted of blocking an abortion clinic in Washington, DC, last November.

Harlow, 75, of Kingston, Massachusetts, was convicted of civil rights conspiracy under the Freedom of Admission to Clinics Act (FACE), a law that prohibits the violation of the rights of others guaranteed by the US Constitution and law.

The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

Harlow was sentenced by Judge Colleen Koller Kotelly of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, who also presided over the trial and sentencing of the other eight protesters convicted in the case. Unlike some of her co-defendants, Harlow was allowed to remain under house arrest until the verdict was announced for health reasons.

The blockade of the Washington Surgical Clinic was filmed by one of the protesters, 42-year-old Josh Darnell, who was also convicted and is serving a 34-month prison sentence. In a video of the protest, which lasted more than an hour and a half, some of the people sitting at the clinic are seen chained together, praying the rosary, singing hymns to the Virgin Mary, and refusing to leave when asked by police to do so.

“Pro-life rescuers are entering the doors of an abortion clinic and saving babies from death. This is very risky for the rescuers, but it’s about time we got serious about ending abortion again,” a description of the video reads.

The DOJ released a statement on May 31 saying: “As the evidence at trial showed, the defendants engaged 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.”

“As part of the conspiracy, many of the defendants travelled to Washington, DC, from various northeast and midwestern states to meet with Lauren Handy and participate in a clinic blockade that was directed by Handy and was broadcast on Facebook,” the statement said.

The statement also said that protesters “forcefully entered the clinic and set about blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes.”


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