FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is accusing the Department of Justice of “aggressively targeting” pro-life activists while failing to properly investigate the slew of attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers throughout the country.

On Tuesday, a Washington, D.C., jury convicted five pro-life activists (Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Heather Idoni, William Goodman, and John Hinshaw) of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when they sought to prevent the abortions of unborn babies by blocking women from accessing a D.C. abortion clinic in 2020.

Handy and Geraghty are activists with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU).

The Justice Department’s Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in December 2022 that the DOJ is targeting pro-life activists through the FACE Act as a response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Her remarks followed on the heels of Republican accusations that the DOJ is unduly targeting pro-life activists like Catholic father Mark Houck.

Cruz reacted in a statement to The Daily Signal, noting that at least 88 U.S. pregnancy centers “have been firebombed, vandalized, or set ablaze in the wake of the Dobbs decision.”

“DOJ’s response to this violence has been anemic, having only prosecuted a single FACE Act case against these criminals,” the senator said. “However, and in stark contrast, the DOJ has brought the entire weight and force of the FBI against those that engage in non-violent protest at abortion clinics.” 

“Yesterday, the DOJ convicted Lauren Handy and four other abortion protesters for engaging in non-violent protest,” the Texas Republican said. “They now face 11 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $350,000.”

Cruz believes that Handy has been targeted by the DOJ due to her pro-life activism, particularly related to her dealings with D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo, who operates out of a Foggy Bottom abortion clinic.

Santangelo did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Members of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the first anniversary of the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization on December 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. Originally advertised as an event organized by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, the demonstrators pretended to be in support of abortion rights before pulling off green-colored clothing and altering signs to reveal their opposition to abortion. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Members of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the first anniversary of the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“The DOJ has been aggressively targeting Handy since she and others blew the whistle on an abortion doctor in Washington, D.C., who was engaging in illegal, late-term abortions,” Cruz said.

“When you compare how aggressively DOJ treats pro-life protesters like Lauren Handy and Mark Houck versus the hand-off approach it takes to those that burn and vandalize churches and pregnancy centers, it’s obvious that [Attorney General Merrick] Garland has thoroughly politicized our federal law enforcement and our system of justice,” the senator said. “He should resign.”

In March 2022, the DOJ charged Handy and eight others with “conspiracy against rights and a [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] Act offense.”

Handy has said that she was motivated to stop abortions from occurring inside the clinic after she viewed an undercover video published by the pro-life group Live Action that allegedly showed Santangelo discussing how he would allow babies to die if they were accidentally delivered during abortions.

In March 2022, Handy and her colleague Terrisa Bukovinac discovered the bodies of five preemie-sized aborted babies in a box of fetal remains outside the Foggy Bottom-based abortion facility. That box also contained over a hundred pulverized remains of first-trimester babies, they said.

The District does not have any laws that regulate how late during pregnancy a baby can be aborted. So when the babies’ bodies were originally brought to light, D.C. police shrugged off the matter. 

Ashan Benedict, the Metropolitan Police Department’s executive assistant chief of police, went so far as to tell reporters in April 2022 that the babies appeared to have been aborted “in accordance with D.C. law.” 

Police have repeatedly told The Daily Signal since then that the case is still “under investigation.” Authorities will not share whether autopsies have been performed on the babies’ remains. The MPD confirmed in early August that the investigation is still open.

The mayor’s office has completely stonewalled questions about the babies. Even the office of the chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia directs queries to the mayor’s office—specifically, to Dora Taylor-Lowe, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, who refuses to answer The Daily Signal’s requests for comment. 

In April 2022, Cruz had called on Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser to preserve the remains of the babies as “evidence for future Congressional oversight hearings.”

“It is a clear injustice that these children may have been murdered or aborted in violation of federal law, and that the D.C. government entities that this Congress oversees are unwilling to investigate the circumstance and may instead destroy all evidence,” Cruz said at the time.

“It appears that the Metropolitan Police Department has assumed the cause and nature of these children’s deaths without an investigation,” he added. “It has recently been brought to my attention that the D.C. government may incinerate the bodies of these five children without conducting an investigation, without performing any autopsies, and without affording these children a proper, respectful burial.”

The Texas Republican asked that the D.C. Medical Examiner conduct an autopsy of each of the “five children’s bodies.” The investigation, he said, should be “consistent with the type of method and detail that would be conducted in a murder investigation.”

It remains unclear whether autopsies have been performed on the bodies of the five babies, whose bodies were photographed by Bukovinac. (Warning: These images are graphic and disturbing.) Some pro-lifers fear that the city may have gotten rid of them. 

Yet, although Bowser refuses to address the possibility that Santangelo was criminally aborting late-term babies in the nation’s capital, she did accuse Handy of “tampering with fetal remains” in an April 2022 letter to Republican lawmakers highlighting that Handy herself faced FACE Act charges for blocking the entrance to a D.C. abortion clinic in October 2020.

Handy’s involvement in the discovery of the babies, as well as her participation in the October 2020 “blockade,” according to Bowser, are potentially “serious violations of federal law.”

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