Three pro-life activists who took part in an October 2022 “rescue” in a Washington, D.C., abortion facility were each found guilty of felonies that could land them up to 11 years in prison and fines as much as $350,000.
The verdict follows a separate trial in which five other pro-life activists were also found guilty.
The activists — 74-year-old Joan Bell, 73-year-old Jean Marshall, and 41-year-old Jonathan Darnel — were indicted on felony conspiracy against rights and violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also known as the FACE Act. The FACE Act increased penalties for people who accost or obstruct women who are seeking abortion at clinics or pregnancy resource centers.
According to the Department of Justice, the three activists engaged in a conspiracy to create a blockade of an abortion clinic.
The DOJ claims that Bell and Marshall were among a group of activists who forcefully entered the abortion clinic and blockaded two doors with their bodies, furniture, chains, and ropes. The DOJ adds that Darnel remained outside of the abortion facility but livestreamed the group’s activism on social media.
According to the DOJ, Marshall and Bell traveled to the Washington, D.C., area to meet with Darnel and others to participate in the protest, which was directed by another activist.
“Joan Bell’s children were in the audience shaking and crying,” Bernadette Patel, a pro-life activist who did not partake in the rescue, told CNA.
“Joan took off her red shirt to reveal a bright yellow shirt with the words ‘Pro Life’ written on it,” Patel said. “Jonathan Darnel gave a wave before being escorted out. Jean Marshall brought a doctor’s note saying that she was scheduled for a hip replacement but the judge refused to keep her under house arrest and all were taken away. Chris Bell [Joan’s husband] teared up as he went to his car.”
A hearing for their sentencing is yet to be scheduled.
Five other pro-life activists who engaged in the demonstration were found guilty of a felony charge of conspiracy against rights and violating the FACE Act. These activists are also awaiting sentencing. Another activist pleaded guilty and did not take his case to trial.