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Pro-lifers jailed for trespassing at Virginia abortion clinic vow to continue 'radical acts of love'

PAAU Activists
Pro-life activists Cassidy Shooltz, Kristin Turner, Joan Andrews Bell, Lauren Handy, Terrisa Bukovinac and Jonathan Darnel are pictured with their lawyer outside the Alexandria Circuit Court in Alexandria, Virginia, ahead of their sentencing for "trespassing" at an abortion facility on July 12, 2022. |

Six pro-life activists, primarily representing the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, were jailed on trespassing charges Tuesday after pleading "no contest" at an Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse.

The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, a group of liberal pro-life activists, announced in a statement Tuesday that the advocates "were jailed after pleading 'no contest' to trespassing charges related to a Rescue at the Alexandria Women's Center, the largest abortion business in Northern Virginia, on November 16th, 2021."

The announcement followed a trial in Alexandria Circuit Court in the Washington, D.C. suburb earlier in the day.

"Joan Andrews Bell, Terrisa Bukovinac, Lauren Handy, Kristin Turner, Cassidy Shooltz, [and] Jonathan Darnel were engaged in a Pink Rose Rescue, a nonviolent direct action in which activists enter abortion businesses, hand out life-affirming literature, pink roses and offer hope and financial resources to the patients at risk of exploitation by the Abortion Industrial Complex," the statement reads. 

Longtime pro-life activists Bell and Handy, who have been jailed for their activism in the past, were sentenced to 30 days behind bars, while the remaining pro-life activists will serve four days in jail.

Bukovinac, PAAU founder and executive director, released a statement defending her actions.

"The concept of a human non-person is one that has been used historically and exclusively to discriminate against whole groups of human beings, and in the case of abortion … that discrimination is lethal almost one hundred percent of the time," she said. "Rescuing these children from poisoning and dismemberment is an act of non-violence and a commitment to radical equality."

Activists affiliated PAAU will hold protests outside the Alexandria Detention Center at 5:00 p.m. on a nightly basis, demanding the release of the pro-life activists.

Caroline Smith, PAAU's media coordinator, told The Christian Post that the Pink Rose Rescue conducted by the pro-life activists at the Alexandria Women's Center resulted in five women deciding not to have abortions.

She said the "no contest" pleas mean that "the lawyer and the judge and everybody" has reached an agreement on what the sentencing "is going to look like."

Smith vowed that the legal consequences faced by the leadership of PAAU and other pro-life advocates would not deter the organization from engaging in Pink Rose Rescues in the future.

"We understand that with doing these types of nonviolent direct action, there's going to be these sorts of consequences the way our system works right now," she said. "However, we're still committed to doing these types of things and doing rescue and any of these children have a right to be rescued is what we firmly believe."

"Although it is going to come with consequences, those consequences are not going to be more. They're not going to be greater than the consequences that the children that we are attempting to save would have if they were to be killed," Smith added. "So that's kind of where our perspective is on that. We're going to take the consequences as they come, but it's worth it to us."

The activists have no intentions of appealing the ruling, Smith said. She reiterated PAAU's support for "nonviolent, direct action," noting that previous social movements have proven that "nonviolent, direct action" is "a really, really effective way of getting things to change."

"If there are radical acts of violence happening, they need to be answered with radical acts of love," she asserted. 

The Pink Rose Rescue in Alexandria is not the first time activists affiliated with PAAU have been arrested for their activism at abortion facilities.

Less than a week before their arrest in Alexandria, the activists were arrested for handing out pro-life literature on the campus of Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco, California. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Handy, Bell, Darnel and six others for orchestrating a "clinic blockade" in Washington, D.C. The activists face up to 11 years in prison if convicted. Smith insisted that because "federal cases are on a very, very long timeline" and "take a very, very long time to even just get started," not many developments have occurred in this particular case since the March indictment.

Handy was among four convicted last month of trespassing and resisting arrest during a protest at an abortion clinic in Michigan in 2019. 

PAAU made headlines earlier this year when it announced the organization obtained medical waste containers that included the remains of five full-term aborted babies and urged the city to investigate if the abortions were legal. 

Smith believes the fact that their arrests have occurred in overwhelmingly pro-abortion jurisdictions has played some role in the hostility PAAU activists have faced in the legal system.

"I would say it's definitely linked. A lot of the jurisdictions that we are facing these charges in are generally known to be very pro-abortion," she said. 

"That is also linked to the fact that those are the places that we need to be rescuing because they're often the communities that are very committed to having ... access to abortion through all nine months, so those are often the places that we will be going to rescue."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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