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Antiabortion activist who kept 5 fetuses pleads not guilty in D.C. case

Lauren Handy was indicted last week on federal civil rights charges, the same day police recovered fetal remains at the apartment where she was staying

Antiabortion activists Lauren Handy, left, and Terrisa Bukovinac demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in December. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)
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An antiabortion activist who had five fetuses removed from her home last week by police pleaded not guilty Monday to federal civil rights violations.

Lauren Handy, 28, was one of nine people indicted Wednesday for allegedly violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 2020. That’s when the group used chain and rope in a blockade incident at the Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortion clinic in Foggy Bottom. The FACE Act prohibits threats intended to interfere with reproductive health-care services.

Prosecutors Monday did not seek to have Handy detained.

The same day the nine were charged, D.C. police discovered five fetuses in a Capitol Hill rowhouse basement where Handy had been staying. Police said they received a tip that a group had fetuses that it suspected came from illegal abortions, and Handy’s group, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, said in a statement that it had called police to the apartment to get the fetuses so they could be inspected. District officials said the city medical examiner has no plans at this time to perform autopsies on the fetuses because they appeared to have been aborted in accordance with D.C. law.

On Monday, D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the investigation of how Handy came to be in possession of the fetuses “continues on” and is in the “very preliminary” stage. He said investigators are a long way from reaching any conclusions about whether there is a criminal case. “We’re not going to rush to judgment,” Contee said.

5 fetuses found in D.C. home of woman charged in abortion clinic blockade

Officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case that remains under investigation said detectives have not conclusively pinned down the origin of the fetuses. Police are “trying to find out how did those fetuses end up in that house? … We need to figure out exactly: Were they stolen? Were they stolen in transit? How did they end up in the District of Columbia?” one official said.

The officials would not say whether the leaders of the D.C. clinic, where the group says the fetuses originated, are cooperating.

Both officials said “everything is on the table” for investigation, including whether the clinic followed proper procedures in disposing of the fetuses, as well as the actions of Handy, who said she obtained them.

The officials cautioned that they have not found anything suspicious at the clinic.

Another District official said the D.C. medical examiner’s office has conducted a preliminary review of the fetuses and has determined an approximate age range for them. The official would not elaborate on the range.

D.C. Medical Examiner has no plans to autopsy fetuses removed from antiabortion activist’s home, officials say

D.C. and seven states do not have specific laws prohibiting abortion after a certain point in pregnancy. Randall Terry, serving as a spokesman for Handy and her group, said the activists want an investigation of whether the clinic violated federal law, which restricts when a procedure known as “intact dilation and extraction” can be performed and extends legal rights to fetuses that survive abortions.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the District declined to comment Monday, spokesman Bill Miller said.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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