My Statement on Lauren Handy

My Statement on Lauren Handy April 2, 2022


I’ve been trying 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 all over the news for doing something terrible. I discovered that earlier this month, and now I’m discovering it again with Lauren Handy.

The news has gone viral and is being reported all over the world last I checked. Handy was arrested for her role in blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic two years ago. And then, days later, the police removed five human fetuses from her home. Photos of her sitting on the curb looking bewildered went viral after the raid. She only told the press that “people would freak out when they heard.”

I was beside myself, because I actually knew Miss Handy– or thought I did. She and I knew each other online and had been conversing by direct message. I was drawn to her because she was one of the only pro-life activists I know who didn’t seem to be doing it just to score points. She seemed to have a consistent life ethic. She held fundraisers and collected supplies for the pregnant women she helped. She was vocally in favor 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. Once she drove out of state with a woman who was a victim of gang violence, to get her to a safe house and protect her from being shot. This is the kind of activism that I believe we have to engage in if we really value life from conception until natural death, as Catholics should. I donated to her nonprofit and encouraged others to do so on occasion.

I knew, because she said publicly on her social media, that Lauren was taking part in “rescues” that didn’t sound right to me, and I should have known more about what she was doing. But I tend to be a little naïve, and I didn’t ask questions. We talked about other things.

Ms. Handy acted as though she could not stand it when other pro-life activists exploited 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 interested in the sordid things pro-life activists do with corpses that ought to be buried, I strongly encourage them to look at the story of Baby Choice. I stand by that story completely; all the information I have is information that was voluntarily published by the people involved and I link to every source. There are no secrets there.

When the news came out that she was storing fetuses in her house, I was shocked. People informed me that I was not being reasonable, that Ms. Handy had spirited the corpses away for burial. And indeed, Ms. Handy seemed to be saying that as well. She posted a quote about burying the dead being a Corporeal Work of Mercy on her twitter feed, along with a scene from the play Antigone.

I stammered, in my usual graceless fashion, that if she really cared about the dead she wouldn’t be keeping them in her freezer. She’d have buried them, perhaps in the yard the way I’ve known some bereaved mothers of early miscarriages to have to do. I was chided that she was just waiting for an opportunity to bury them in consecrated ground, nothing sordid at all. People were shocked that I would object.

She herself messaged me that what was happening wasn’t the exploitation of corpses like Pavone had done, but she couldn’t 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 that Lauren works with, “Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising,” which I hadn’t bothered to research because I am a little naïve, announced that they would be having a press conference on Tuesday. “Don’t miss it,” they teased, as if this was a sporting match or a TV special. “It’s going to be explosive,” said their spokesperson to the New York Times.

People began saying that Lauren must have been duped; she took the bodies to bury with dignity and then got used by PAAU as part of a media circus. I wanted to believe that myself. In fact I did believe and publicly and privately expressed that I believed it. It wasn’t until today, when I had more than a full day to think about it, that I realized she’d spilled the beans before the press conference was announced. She knew.

I demanded that Lauren tell me her side of it, but she said she could only speak on the phone. I wasn’t willing to speak to her unless it was in writing, and that was the end of that.

PAAU is now claiming that they are the ones who told the police about the corpses, and were turning them over to them voluntarily because they suspected they were actually victims of infanticide by a local abortion clinic.  They have a photocopy of a letter from an attorney that they claim is evidence of this. And it may well be true. If it is, I hope the book gets thrown at the doctors who did it. But it doesn’t match with what was said in every single news report I’ve read. They said that the police said they had only been tipped of “potential biohazard material,” and that there didn’t seem to be any crime committed in the babies’ deaths, only in how the corpses were obtained. Maybe the police are overlooking something huge. It wouldn’t 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 question why, in the photograph of the letter from the lawyer, the number of corpses has been redacted. Is this because the news keeps reporting on “five fetuses” and there are actually more?

While I was still reeling from all of this, the photographs hit social media. The pro-life groups Live Action and Lila Rose began posting extremely graphic photos to their social media– the babies held up to the camera with rubber gloves, dripping fluid, completely naked, an unbelievably disrespectful and exploitative way to show a photo of a corpse. Exactly the way Pavone exploited his corpse collection for shock value. In my mind there is no way the photos could have been “leaked” by one unscrupulous person and picked up by Live Action and Lila Rose so quickly. This had to have been arranged ahead of time as part of the media stunt. And I’m not linking to those photos because they are horrendous, an exploitation of children who have already suffered enough. They should not be public.

They showed one photograph of a small pasteboard box with the name of an abortion clinic on it, as if that proved that all the babies were taken from that same clinic. It doesn’t. Perhaps further proof will come out that they did all come from the same place. But for the moment, we have no proof. We have one photo of a box and several photos of the bodies, in what looks to be somebody’s kitchen. The bodies were 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, taken a picture and gone to the health department with it at once.  They chose a far more dramatic method to draw attention to their pro-life organizations and now it’s less likely that anything will be done. They made it all about them, about putting on a show, and as a result, if there was anything that could be done to stop this from happening again, it may not be done now.

Further, something doesn’t look right about some of those babies. It’s been pointed out that one is totally intact with a placenta still attached, and I have never heard of an induced abortion that is expelled still attached to the placenta. One is completely en caul, something that happens with some stillbirths and a handful of live births. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t imagine how that would happen with an induced abortion.

Even if somehow there will be information revealed in the “explosive” press conference on Tuesday that could lay these fears to rest,  it will not heal the damage that this deranged group of people has done to the pro-life movement’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

After the photos were published and widely shared, I saw many, many of my friends on social media reeling in shock, but not in the way that the pro-life groups probably intended. I saw post-abortive mothers having flashbacks and expressing that they felt they could never trust anyone who was pro-life again. I saw mothers and fathers who had experienced miscarriages, stillbirths and infant loss suffering trauma as well. I saw them expressing that they lost all respect for the pro-life movement. If they ever believed the pro-life movement wanted to help mothers and children instead of grasping for attention and hurting people, they don’t believe it anymore.

I saw quite a few pro-choice people insisting that this proved what they’d said all along, that being against abortion is just like belonging to a mind control cult and that nobody who is pro-life could be trusted, even if they tried to brand themselves as being feminists or having a consistent life ethic. To them, this confirms that all pro-lifers are crazy.

I also saw smug pro-life people with cartoons and crucifixes for profile pictures, exalting and taunting people, trying to make their pain worse, showing no compassion for anyone.

I did not see anyone convinced of a different view of abortion. I did not see anyone won over. I did not see a single mind changed. I certainly did not see anyone working to change the ways in which our society drives women towards abortion.

Well, my mind’s been changed. I can no longer endorse any organization that calls itself “pro-life.”

I am a Catholic. I believe that human beings have intrinsic value from conception until they die. They ought not to be abused. They ought not to be killed. They also ought not to be exploited and used as a commercial for anybody’s nonprofit or anarchist group.

That leaves me feeling very alone right now.



Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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