Lawmakers demand investigation, autopsies of 5 aborted babies rescued by jailed Catholic activist

Activists Lauren Handy (left) and Terrisa Bukovinac chant slogans against legal abortion outside the Supreme Court in Washington Dec. 10, 2021. Handy is currently in Alexandria, VA, jail for blockading an abortion clinic. In 2022, she discovered 115 fetuses in a medical waste disposal truck, including five that were old enough to be viable outside the womb. (OSV News photo/Sarah Silbiger, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — In a stunning development for Catholic pro-life activist Lauren Handy, the scheduled destruction of five unborn babies’ corpses she recovered from a Washington abortion clinic in 2022 has been indefinitely delayed with the expectation they will finally be autopsied.

A small group of pro-life members of Congress, making the announcement in front of the Capitol Feb. 14, did not give a timetable for the next steps, which they hope also will include a congressional hearing and a law enforcement investigation of the clinic.

At issue is their suspicion that the condition of the five unborn children, all late in gestation, suggests they might have all been victims of a so-called partial-birth abortion, which is illegal in the District of Columbia.

Guidance from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes partial-birth abortion as “the term Congress has used to describe a procedure that crosses the line from abortion to infanticide. The doctor delivers a substantial portion of the living child outside his mother’s body — the entire head in a head-first delivery or the trunk past the navel in a feet-first delivery — then kills the child by crushing his skull or removing his brain by suction.”

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the abortions showed a “total crass disregard for life. We are standing against this kind of callousness.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said the District of Columbia’s medical examiner had promised to preserve the bodies of the fetuses “for the time being.”

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., complained the district’s police had been dismissive of the concerns raised by Handy two years ago and that the medical examiner’s office had only a destruction plan in place.

“These babies never had anyone before to advocate for them,” he said. “We’re calling for transparency in how these babies were killed.”

“Where is the compassion? Where is the outrage? Where is the justice? Why the cover-up?” asked Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus. He added, “These babies deserved to be treated with respect and compassion.”

Smith promised that after the autopsies, the fetuses will receive a burial in a Catholic cemetery.

Handy is currently in an Alexandria, Virginia, jail awaiting sentencing for her federal conviction over an abortion clinic blockade that carries a prison term of up to 11 years. However, she gained international attention from her April 2022 press conference in which she revealed having stored the five fetuses in her refrigerator after recovering a box of 115 from a medical waste disposal truck in the month prior.

At the Capitol press conference, the congressmen said Handy had received them “from a whistleblower.”

The five bodies that appeared near full term to Handy have been held by the district’s medical examiner since then. The rest of the fetal remains received a burial presided over by a Catholic priest.

The new development does not affect the convictions of Handy and nine others for the Oct. 22, 2020, “lock and block” blockade at Washington Surgi-Clinic, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

They were convicted under the 1994 federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act. Handy was convicted last Aug. 29. The last of the defendants was convicted in November. Sentencing is expected in May.

Roy has called for abolishing the FACE Act, but at the press conference, he said he preferred to focus on the larger picture: “The culture of life, we’re moving away from that. We need to bring that back.”

The bodies of the unborn children, now billed by activists as the “D.C. Five,” were scheduled to be cremated as medical waste. In a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Martin Cannon, a senior counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which represents Handy, asked Jordan to help stop the destruction and investigate the deaths as evidence of a federal crime.

“I feel strongly that a congressional investigation is imperative here,” Cannon wrote.

Monica Miller, director of the Michigan-based Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and a friend of Handy’s, told OSV News in a statement that pro-lifers “can breathe a sigh of relief” at the announcement. She said that no matter what happens, the aborted children “deserve a real burial, consistent with their human dignity — not just incinerated as just so much waste.”


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