I tried to think what to say for days.
It’s a surreal feeling to wake up one morning and find that someone you thought you knew and respected is making headlines for doing something terrible. I discovered that with the horrible case of David Morrier, and now I’m rediscovering it with Lauren Handy.
The news went viral and was reported all over the world last time I checked. Handy was arrested for her role in blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic two years ago. And then, a few days later, the police removed five human fetuses from his home. Photos of her sitting on the sidewalk looking puzzled went viral after the raid. She only told the press that “people would freak out when they heard it.”
I was beside myself, because I actually knew Miss Handy – or I thought I did. She and I knew each other online and had conversed via direct message. I was drawn to her because she was one of the only pro-life activists I know who didn’t seem to do it just to score points. She seemed to have a consistent life ethic. She organized fundraisers and collected supplies for the pregnant women she helped. She was vocally supportive of Black Lives Matter and tried to educate people on how racism intersects with abortion. She cared for LGBTQ parents that other pro-life organizations would shun. She once left the state with a female victim of gang violence, to take her to a safe house and protect her from gunfire. This is the kind of activism I believe we need to engage in if we truly value life from conception to natural death, as Catholics should. I donated to his non-profit organization and encouraged others to do so on occasion.
I knew, because she said so publicly on her social media, that Lauren was involved in “rescues” that didn’t feel right to me, and I should have known more about what she was doing. But I tend to be a little naive, and I didn’t ask questions. We talked about other things.
Ms Handy acted as if she couldn’t stand other pro-life activists exploiting corpses. She despised Frank Pavone. She is, in fact, one of the people who helped me find the information on Pavone’s corpse known as “Baby Choice”. And now that the public is finally taking an interest in the sordid things that pro-life activists do with dead bodies that should be buried, I strongly encourage them to watch the story of Baby Choice. I completely stand by this story; all information available to me is information published voluntarily by those involved and I refer to all sources. There are no secrets there.
When the news came out that she was storing fetuses in her house, I was shocked. People told me that I was unreasonable, that Mrs. Handy had removed the corpses to bury them. And indeed, Mrs. Handy seemed to be saying that too. She posted a quote about burying the dead as a bodily work of mercy on her Twitter feed, along with a scene from the play. Antigone.
I stammered, as usual gracelessly, that if she really cared about the dead, she wouldn’t keep them in her freezer. She would have buried them, perhaps in the yard as I have known some mothers bereaved by early miscarriages. I was scolded that she was just waiting for an opportunity to bury them in hallowed ground, nothing sordid at all. People were shocked that I opposed it.
She herself told me that what was happening was not the exploitation of corpses as Pavone had done, but she could not divulge any details until Tuesday. I wondered what Tuesday had to do with it. I thought maybe she had a court date.
About fifteen minutes later, the organization Lauren works with, “Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising,” which I hadn’t bothered to research because I’m a bit naive, announcement that they would hold a press conference on Tuesday. “Don’t miss it,” they teased, as if it were a sports game or a special. “It’s going to be explosive,” their spokesperson told The New York Times.
People started saying that Lauren must have been tricked; it took the bodies to bury them with dignity and then was used by PAAU as part of a media circus. I wanted to believe it myself. In fact, I believed in it and expressed publicly and privately that I believed in it. It wasn’t until today, when I had more than a full day to think about it, that I realized she had said it all before the press conference was announced. She knew.
I demanded that Lauren tell me her side of things, but she said she could only talk on the phone. I wasn’t willing to talk to him unless it was in writing, and that was it.
PAAU is now claiming that they were the ones who told the police about the corpses and voluntarily handed them over because they suspected they had in fact been the victims of infanticide by a local abortion clinic. They have a photocopy of a letter from a lawyer which they claim is proof of this. And that may be true. If so, I hope the book will be pitched to doctors who have done it. But that doesn’t match what was said in every report I read. They said police said they had only been told of ‘potential biohazard material’ and that there appeared to be no crime in the deaths of the babies, only in the way the corpses had been obtained. Maybe the police are overlooking something huge. It would not be the first time. I’m also suspicious because Lauren always presented herself as an anarchist who hated the police and wouldn’t work with them. I also wonder why, on the photograph of the lawyer’s letter, the number of bodies has been redacted. Is it because the news keeps talking about “five fetuses” and there are actually more?
While I was still reeling from it all, the photographs hit social media. Pro-life groups Live Action and Lila Rose began posting extremely graphic photos on their social media – of the babies held in front of the camera in rubber gloves, dripping with liquid, stark naked, an incredibly disrespectful and exploitative way to show a photo of a corpse. Exactly how Pavone mined his collection of corpses for shock value. In my mind, there’s no way the photos were “leaked” by an unscrupulous person and picked up by Live Action and Lila Rose so quickly. This must have been arranged in advance as part of the media stunt. And I’m not linking to those pictures because they’re horrible, exploitation of children who have suffered enough already. They should not be public.
They showed a photograph of a small cardboard box with the name of an abortion clinic on it, as if it proved that all the babies were taken from that same clinic. This is not the case. Maybe more evidence will come out that they all came from the same place. But at the moment we have no proof. We have a photo of a box and several photos of the bodies, in what appears to be someone’s kitchen. The bodies have been removed from where they were found, tampering with evidence, disrupting a potential crime scene, so if there was a crime committed it will be harder to prove than if someone had, for example, took a picture and went to the health department with her at once. They chose a much more dramatic method to draw attention to their pro-life organizations and now it’s less likely anything will be done. They did everything for them, to put on a show, and therefore if there was anything that could be done to prevent this from happening again, it might not be happening now.
Also, something is wrong with some of these babies. It has been pointed out that one is totally intact with a placenta still attached, and I have never heard of an induced abortion being expelled still attached to the placenta. One is completely capped, which happens with some stillbirths and a handful of live births. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t imagine how it would be with an induced abortion.
While somehow information that emerged at Tuesday’s “explosive” press conference might allay those fears, it won’t undo the damage this deranged group of people have done to the reputation of the pro-life movement in the eyes of the world.
After the photos were posted and shared widely, I saw many, many of my friends on social media in shock, but not in the way pro-life groups probably expected. I have seen post-abortion mothers have flashbacks and express that they felt they could never trust someone who was pro-life again. I have seen mothers and fathers who had suffered miscarriages, stillbirths and infant losses also suffering from trauma. I have seen them express that they have lost all respect for the pro-life movement. If they ever believed that the pro-life movement wanted to help mothers and children instead of attracting attention and hurting people, they no longer believe it.
I’ve seen quite a few pro-choice people insist that this proves what they’ve been saying all along, that being against abortion is like being in a mind control cult and that no one who is pro-life can be trusted, even if they try to present themselves as being feminists or having a consistent life ethic. For them, it confirms that all pro-lifers are crazy.
I’ve also seen smug pro-life people with cartoons and crucifixes for profile pictures, elating and taunting people, trying to make their pain worse, showing no compassion for anyone.
I haven’t seen anyone convinced of a different view of abortion. I haven’t seen anyone win. I haven’t seen a single mind changed. I certainly haven’t seen anyone working to change the way our society encourages women to have abortions.
Well, I changed my mind. I can no longer support any organization that calls itself “pro-life”.
I am catholic. I believe that human beings have intrinsic value from conception to death. Do not abuse. They must not be killed. They should also not be exploited and used as publicity for a non-profit or anarchist group.
It leaves me feeling very alone right now.
Image via Pixabay