Pro-life activist Lauren Handy made headlines last Wednesday, when police and medical examiners removed the bodies of five unborn babies from her Washington, D.C. apartment.
Handy had been arrested by federal investigators earlier that day, and is charged with violating a federal law that prohibits obstruction or interference with access to abortion clinics. Handy has pled not guilty.
The charges stem from a 2020 “rescue,” in which Handy and eight other people “obstructed access” to an abortion clinic, the Washington Surgi-Center. Several entered the clinic, chaining themselves into chairs, and urging women not to have abortions.
But while Handy, 28, could face more than a decade in prison for those charges, media attention has focused on the bodies removed from her apartment, as have questions from both her supporters and critics.
The Pillar asked Handy to discuss the controversy in her own words, in a longform, substantive conversation about what happened, and about the history of her work.
Handy, director of activism for Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, talked with The Pillar Monday, along with PAAU director Terrisa Bukovinac.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It includes frank and direct discussion of abortion.
Lauren Handy: If abortion is murder, then our actions need to be reflective of that.
In 2013, I started going inside abortion facilities and just leaving before the cops came. A lot of the beginning years weren’t ever really documented, because I just never thought to really document that. And I thought that I would always be doing this by myself.
In 2017, Red Rose Rescue started. And now we have Pink Rose Rescue.
We have seen babies’ lives saved, even just in the past few months. It has been miraculous.
If people just do a quick stroll of my Twitter — they just have to go past all the cat pictures — but in December, we saw a mom choose life. We walked into the abortion facility, we gave her a rose, and she explained what help she needed. And we were able to get it — we were able to connect her with $4,000 to cover her back rent, so that she wouldn’t be thrown out on the street before Christmas.
And after one Red Rose Rescue, the abortionist sued us for restitution — for loss of business, loss of revenue! Because 12 people didn’t get an abortion and never came back. We got sued for loss of revenue!
And if you just think of it — the abortionist considered that person, their circumstance, their child, as revenue. And so it’s like a double insight of what is going on in the abortion industry. They view people in crisis or an unwanted pregnancy just as a [source of income].
Lauren Handy: When man’s laws counter God’s law, we are under no moral or ethical obligation to acknowledge those laws.
It is our duty to not follow an unjust law, I’m pretty sure it was Augustine who spoke on that, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke on that.
And if we look at the rich Catholic history of people who did not follow unjust laws, we can look at the early Christians who were going to be killed getting children from the exposure walls — Children who had disabilities or who were unwanted were left in Roman times at the exposure wall, and you would’ve been killed if you were caught trying to retrieve the children from the exposure wall.
[Ed. note: While the exposure of infants was a common practice in the Roman Empire, and early Christians were known in Rome for rescuing children who had been left to die, The Pillar has not been able to confirm any period in which it was illegal to retrieve children who had been exposed. Historians believe that while many such children died, some were adopted, others raised as slaves, and some were taken for other nefarious purposes.]
Look during the time of Nazi Germany, at people who were hiding Jews in their house, or in America, people who were helping enslaved people get into freer states. Or what’s currently happening in China, Christians who are working in underground crisis pregnancy centers and forging paperwork — spiriting away moms into villages instead of the city, so they won’t face a forced abortion.
And so we have this rich Catholic history of people not obeying unjust laws. And I believe rescues are an extension of that as well. We go in there peacefully and with a plan to save a particular baby on a particular day and let the chips fall where they may.
Say you see someone drowning in a pool. I mean, for heaven sakes, you don’t go up to the yard and say, “Hey, there’s free help for you and your family. It’s okay, I’m praying for you.”
You don’t do that. You go. You go and get them out of the pool. You can and should help them.
LH: And that’s why the abortion industry is so scared.
LH: Yeah. A lot of times, actually. But a lot of [charges] have been dropped, or a lot of them had suspended sentences or fines, a lot of them I just got probation. But you know, I have like four different trials this year.
LH: To be honest, I have no idea.
But I always weigh the costs before I ever make a decision, especially a decision as big as what rescue entails.
I mean, I counted up the cost and I believe following Christ is worth it. I believe following him to the cross, following him to Calvary is worth it.
Lauren Handy: I’m going to have Terrisa [Bukovinac] share as well, because we got the children together and this whole thing has been us together. I wouldn’t be here without her and vice versa.
Terrisa Bukovinac: Friday, March 25th was the Day of the Unborn, and the Feast of the Annunciation.
Lauren and I weren’t really thinking about the day. We were going about our regular business, sidewalk counseling.
We were planning a Pink Rose Rescue that day at Dr. Cesare Santangelo’s clinic, Washington Surgi-Clinic.
And so we went to the clinic with roses in hand, ready to hand them out to the moms inside. And when we arrived at the abortion facility, we saw a truck parked outside from Curtis Bay Waste Management; we recognized it as a medical waste pickup company.
[Editors’ note: Curtis Bay has denied that any boxes from Washington Surgi-Clinic were given to PAUU, and said that its policy prohibits disposal of fetal and other human remains through Curtis Bay services.]
Lauren approached the truck, I was right behind her. We saw the driver about to load some boxes into the back.
And I said, “Do you know what’s in these boxes?”
And the driver said no, and I said “It’s dead babies.”
And he looked like he saw a ghost. He was shocked.
And we asked if they were from Washington Surgi-Clinic, and he checked his paperwork, and he said they were.
And so I quickly said, “Would you get in trouble if we took one of these boxes?”
And he said, “Well, I’ve already scanned them in, but if you took one, what would you do with it?”
And Lauren said, “We would give them a proper burial and a funeral.”
And he thought about it for just a second, and then he said, “Okay.”
And so Lauren took the box, and we took it back to her apartment.
We weren’t certain what was in the box. It could have been other types of medical waste. We wanted to err on the side of caution.
We found a deacon who came to the house, and Lauren went to CVS, and we got gloves, masks, some other supplies and went back to her apartment and we set up a video camera.
And with the deacon, we opened the box.
Lauren cut the box open. Inside was a red bag and she cut open the bag. And immediately she knew, and she said out loud “It’s babies, it’s full of babies.”
There were small, round, turquoise plastic containers. We unpacked 110 of them. 110 unborn children. And we found also five much larger containers packed within the box, one of those containers significantly larger than the other four.
And so we opened the largest container first. Lauren had triple gloves on — she reached in, and she immediately said, “This one is whole.” And we’re all just watching.
And she puts a fully formed baby onto the table who was, we could tell, much older than our 22-week fetal model, for example.
This baby was clearly over 30 weeks and completely whole, and his skin was pink.
He was just the most beautiful baby boy and we just lost it in that moment. We were just all kind of holding on being strong, trying to get through this. And then this was just completely shattering emotionally. We were weeping, we were cursing the people that did this to him. It was just soul crushing, to experience.
We named him Christopher X, and we thought there was definitely a significant chance that he might have been born alive.
A lot of late-term abortionists, after around 20 weeks, will use a substance called digoxin to cause a heart attack and kill the baby before they do the dismemberment. But Santangelo doesn’t use digoxin because it’s expensive and he’s lazy, and it’s just easier for him to deliver the baby whole by dilating and then just leave the baby to die.
We opened the next one. This baby was a little girl. She was well past the point of viability. She had one eye open and she was completely intact except for the back of her neck was lacerated. And her skull was collapsed and the brain had been suctioned out, indicating to us a partial birth abortion.
Lauren Handy: And then the next three. One of the children was still in the amniotic sac and we immediately didn’t want to look too closely at that one because we didn’t wanna burst open the sac. And then the other two were horrifically dismembered.
[Ed. note: Photographs of the babies found by Lauren Handy can be seen here. They are graphic.]
Journalism matters. Support ‘The Pillar’
LH: I mean, I just thought to myself — I’m telling the babies that I’m sorry, and that I love them and I’m so sorry. That I’m sorry I failed them. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t love them enough and sorry that I couldn’t save them and I couldn’t help their parents. And that I was just so sorry.
I felt like a complete and utter failure.
LH: I kept telling myself, “God is loving. God is good.”
And I surrendered to him because I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t.
LH: We had some children who were just starting to have their little fingers bud, and then we saw some all the way up to early second trimester. There were definitely some who were probably 13 to 15 weeks as well.
LH: Just through experience of my past dealings with burying children, finding children in the dumpsters — just last summer, a child was found in the dumpsters at an Ohio abortion facility and was given a burial.
But we knew we needed to get a pathologist for the five children, and so for two days we were trying to find a pathologist, and we wanted to be as respectful as possible.
So during the next five days with the children, nobody was living in the apartment, nobody was eating there. We were all at Terrisa’s house, and the children were in my apartment.
And on day two, with us still trying to find a pathologist and a medical examiner, all 115 children were given a funeral Mass for the unbaptized. A priest came in and he offered a funeral Mass where the children were, and Terrisa read off all 115 names of the children.
We have to go back to what I promised that man. He asked what we would do for the children, and I said a funeral and a burial.
Gosnell’s victims were incinerated and put in a potter’s field. And I just couldn’t handle the fact that these children might be incinerated and put in a potter’s grave.
And so we arranged for a funeral Mass, and then the bodies of the smaller children were transported for their proper burial. And they have been buried properly in a cemetery by a Catholic priest.
And at this point we were recognized that we’re probably going to have to release the bodies of the other children, not to a private pathologist, but to the DC medical examiner.
Refer a friend
Terrisa Bukovinac: We made arrangements with an attorney to send a letter to the medical examiner, asking DC homicide to investigate and to retrieve these children for the purpose of doing an autopsy.
April 1st 2022
This letter was sent out on March 29, and we went to the apartment that night. We were instructed to leave the door unlocked so that they could come in, get the children and then we would go back in two hours and lock the door.
It got kind of late, so we just decided to lock back up in the morning. We were staying at my house, as Lauren said, and in the morning when we woke up, Lauren got a call — people were warning her that the FBI was starting to make arrests related to a rescue that they did in 2020.
There were reports that they had gone into some of the other rescuer’s homes with guns drawn, and we certainly wanted to avoid any of that.
Lauren planned to turn herself in so that they wouldn’t bust down the door or something. And so we were just gonna go back to her apartment, to make sure the examiner got the children.
But once we got to her apartment we stepped out of the Uber, and them the FBI stepped out of all of their cars and took Lauren into custody there outside her home. This was on March 30, on Wednesday.
After they took Lauren into FBI custody, I went into the apartment, but the children are still there.
So I contacted the attorneys, and they made arrangements for the medical examiner to pick up the children, and I went home for a little bit.
The lawyers told me I needed to go back and let the medical examiner in. So I went back to the apartment, and DC homicide was first to show up. But it took a long time, maybe an hour and a half or so for all of the forensics team to get there, and all of the superiors that they were waiting on.
I was inside the house, but I couldn’t see that they had lined the street with police cars and were just making an enormous scene out of the situation.
Eventually, forensics came in and took photographs, they opened the containers, they definitely had a reaction when they saw the babies — they just looked horrified.
And then they left. And when I left Lauren’s apartment, there was already a reporter outside asking me for a comment.
I went to get Lauren from where she would be released, but she was being held somewhere else, and it took us a few hours to reconnect. I had her purse, her wallet, the keys to her apartment. And she went back to the apartment and was waiting outside, and reporters were documenting the situation. You’ve probably seen the picture of her sitting outside.
April 4th 2022
And then her landlord was upset, and informed her that she will no longer be able to live there. And so, she was going these incredibly devastating experiences, and then almost immediately, false articles start appearing saying that the FBI raided her apartment —
Lauren Handy: Or people saying that I had the children for years. And people who I thought I trusted or who knew me were writing outright lies, misinformation or people demanding things: “Tell me everything right now. And if you don’t tell right now, then I’m going to expose you!”
That kind of thing.
I have a federal indictment. I have lawyers, I have people who are trying to advise me. I’m being evicted from my house. I have the trauma from these children.
And then everyone’s, you know, [piling on]. It was very interesting.
And I’m not angry. I don’t hold bitterness towards these people because the situation is so sensationalized, and then the information leak falling out, the pictures being shown, when we weren’t really planning to show those pictures anytime soon.
[Ed. note: Photographs of the babies found by Lauren Handy can be seen here. They are graphic.]
And it’s just like — a lot of people are hurt. A lot of people who’ve experienced pregnancy loss. A lot of people who are post-abortive — they’re hurt. And I understand, and my heart goes out to them.
So everyone can send me their mean tweets or write their exposés on “Who is Miss Handy?” [Laughs]
And it’s just — these children were murdered. [Dr.] Santangelo murdered them. And not only that, some of those children had been in his office for months. Each of the abortion containers were dated, with the date of their abortion, and some of them were in December.
I didn’t have those babies for months. I didn’t kill those children. All I wanted to do was uphold my promise that I would give them a funeral and a burial. And I feel like I did the best that I could for the circumstances that I was placed in.
LH: Because it’s not an altar, because we were advised by priests the whole time on how to [handle this] as respectfully as possible. We haven’t had these babies for 10-plus years.
We’re really not trying to make a spectacle out of everything.
We wanted to release this information in a nuanced, respectful way, but there were information leaks and the children’s photos were released without my knowledge. And because of the information leaks we’re just trying to go forward.
Terrisa Bukovinac: We’re trying to hold a killer accountable. We found evidence of violent federal crimes and it is our duty as members of the human community to hold this man accountable.
Lauren Handy: I don’t begrudge anyone and I’m not angry because this is really intense, for everyone involved.
Leave a comment
Lauren Handy: Well, I think they rushed to that conclusion too quickly.
The abortion industry runs deep in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.
We’re talking about a network of 21 abortion facilities that can be accessed via the Metro, including later term abortion facilities.
And so I’m not surprised. I mean, if you look at our mayor, the DC mayor, whose policies and decisions have been brutalizing everyone on the margin — the unborn, the houseless, everyone.
And Big Abortion is funneling a lot of money into these institutions and powers. And so we now have to come together as a movement and really demand accountability, and demand autopsy.
If we look back at the beginning of the Gosnell trial, there was also a media blackout and then the pro-life movement came together to demand accountability. And justice — in the context of what we have now in our system — was enacted.
Of course those children were incinerated and put into a potter’s field. And so we’re trying to make sure these children – the five – are going to be released to a funeral home, so they can be buried as well as the other 110.
But we’re also asking for an autopsy, and so now it’s time for all of us to come together to demand justice for these five.
LH: Moments of extreme desolation and despair, and then moments of consolation.
And the consolation comes in different ways.
At one point I was in bed and refusing to get out of bed, and everyone was so concerned about what was happening.
And a man I just met, he has been here this whole time, and he came from West Virginia, and he gave me a little small crucifix that he has had for 20 years. And he said he always has it in his hand, every time he feels upset or nervous. And he just gave it to me.
That gave me the strength to get out of bed that day. Or yesterday we went to the Latin Mass, it was beautiful, and it was so nourishing for my soul. And we all prayed the rosary together, and we’re lighting candles and things of that nature. And community is everything. Nothing is worthwhile unless it’s with others.
Share The Pillar
LH: In past instances when I was in jail, it’s been very interesting seeing the manifestation of my pro-life work. A lot of people have experienced abortion, and just being able to comfort and counsel the people who are in the cell with me, you know?
I was in jail in Flint, Michigan for four days. When I was in holding, I met a girl who was in the holding cell with me, and she had gone to the abortion center a week before, and a sidewalk counselor changed her mind.
And then here I come — A week later, we do a rescue in Flint, I’m arrested, I’m in a holding cell and I meet her, and she said she was arrested for stabbing her boyfriend in self-defense, he was pushing her against the counter to cause a miscarriage, because she chose life.
And so we’re sitting in the jail cell together and she said she was thinking about going through with the abortion. And so, I was able to continue the sidewalk counseling, I was able to continue to connect her with resources.
Not only that, but during my time, I was able to identify everyone who was pregnant in that jail, and we were able to raise $2,000 to put on those people’s commissaries so they could get prenatal vitamins while they were incarcerated.
Wherever I go, I want to be able to serve, to be in solidarity with the marginalized, or if it’s necessary, just me and Jesus.
LH: In 2013, I was agnostic, and going to Central Virginia — going to school with the goal of becoming an art historian or museum curator.
I was always pro-life and the president of the pro-life club at Liberty University found out that someone across the street at, Central Virginia, was pro-life and they asked me to go sidewalk counseling.
And I said, “Yeah, sure. I like helping people.”
We went to the Roanoke Planned Parenthood that Saturday, and it was just so overwhelming — there were like 20 moms going in for abortions.
And I was so shocked and, it was… I fell to the ground, and almost had like a Saul-to-Paul moment, seeing the reality of abortion, and it being a reflective mirror to my own life.
And everyone prayed over me, and then I stood up and I just started calling out to the moms, and I’ve never spoken like that before. And I just started calling out to them.
And in one way, that started my ministry of being a full-time sidewalk counselor, I also started my journey towards Christianity, and it also started my journey towards being a full-time activist as well.
That was on a Saturday.
On Monday, I was in class and it just really hit me — like 20 people were killed [on Saturday], and I was looking around at everyone [in my class] and I just started crying.
I felt like, “Twenty people died. What are we doing? What is going on? How can we live normally?”
And I felt, really, like I wanted to die. I wanted to be with those people. I wanted to be with those babies who died. I couldn’t handle this.
The president of the pro-life club at Liberty University picked me up from school, and took me to a coffee shop and shared the Gospel. And I was like, “Okay. Yeah, that sounds nice. But you know, I’m gonna die. I need to die.”
And they were like, “No, no, no. We’re gonna go to church. I’m gonna take you to church.”
And so he started, taking me to church three days a week and then I gave my life to Christ.
And then within six weeks I dropped out of college, sold all my stuff, and moved to California to be a full-time activist.
The first couple years of my being pro-life, I was with Survivors and we went from city to city, state to state, to college campuses and outside of high schools, and outside abortion facilities for apologetics and sidewalk counseling and street activism.
And throughout my entire travels up until now I’ve been to 32 different states sidewalk counseling, and have helped over 700 families choose life that I know of.
But it was really those first two years of those traveling that formed my reality of how abortion has systematically destroyed communities, because I’ve been from the West Coast to the East Coast, down to the South, into the Midwest, up into the Pacific Northwest. And I’ve just seen how abortion has affected the community uniquely, and how abortion has affected the country as a whole — on a level of communal generational trauma, as well.
Give a gift subscription
LH: A lot of different things.
Seeing a video of an abortion through Center for Bioethical Reform really catapulted me and really cemented my commitment.
Seeing the LiveAction videos from 2013 of Cesare Santangelo [of abortion clinic Washington Surgi-Center] — undercover videos finding out that if a baby is born alive he’ll just set it aside in a solution.
I mean, honestly for me, I was raised to never do anything halfway. And if you’re going to do something, you’re going to have to give it your all.
I have to constantly reflect: If abortion is murder, are my actions reflective of that reality? If abortion is state-sponsored mass exploitation and violence, are my actions reflective of that reality?
And, oftentimes people unknowingly are discriminating against the baby or unknowingly dehumanizing the baby because their actions aren’t reflective of that reality.
Of course, we have to take into context people’s vocations in life, people’s set of circumstances and their abilities. And so we have to always make room for that.
But the way my life is structured and the way my personal principles and commitments have manifested, I’m able to take the risks, and accept the kind of consequences needed, to where I can engage in rescue and engage in full-time sidewalk counseling, and engage in different ministries — my outreaches to the houseless folks, my outreaches to people who are drug dependent or stuck in street economics, like sex work.
LH: In 2013, I saw a documentary on Operation Rescue.
Operation Rescue was in the late 1980s to early 1990s — at the height of Rescue, [tens of thousands] of people had been arrested for civil disobedience. And I saw that documentary as an 18-year-old and I told everyone, “All right, it’s time to rescue.”
And everyone was like, “Oh no, no, no, no, no, we don’t do that anymore. We can’t.”
LH: Yeah, or [people said], “The climate has changed.”
And I was would ask, “Oh, is abortion murder?”
And they said, “Well, yeah.”
And I was like, “Then, then why aren’t we acting like it is?”
We have all types of rescue-style tactics for delegitimizing, the abortion industry, we know that you can’t use trespassing laws to protect a grave evil.
[An abortion clinic] is not a legitimate business. And I don’t believe that we have to acknowledge this unjust application of property laws or property lines.
LH: I am a progressive economic leftist and I believe a culture of life can be created through leftist economic policies.
I’ve always thought that way, but my views on that have grown stronger over the years through study and prayer. When you go into DC and you have to pass by these tent cities — these houseless encampments — to go to the abortion center, how can you not do something, right?
And so a lot of my work and a lot of my outreaches, kind of just manifest to the surroundings that I find myself in. Some days I just walk around the city and people come to me for help and that’s just a natural extension of my work.
And I believe God has brought certain moms into my life who need a little extra help.
A lot of the people who have chosen life — of the 700 that I know of — go to the crisis pregnancy center, or only need temporary help, but a lot of people that need long term help or they need connection and community and a confidant figure to go along the journey with them.
And that’s when I came into the world of people who are homeless, people who are drug-dependent, people who engage in sex work. And I had to really learn how to meet people where they are at without judging, and to be able to work within different circumstances or experiences that are vastly different than my own.
I learned how to do that through reading about the lives of the saints. And a lot of Protestant literature on street-servant evangelization, and also just through a lot of prayer and fasting as well, all to understand how I can navigate situations in ways that don’t compromise my principles and my conscience, but also respect the dignity of the person who I am serving.
LH: The biggest one that I can say from the top of my head is Saint Mother Teresa.
I lived with the Missionaries of Charity — The Missionaries of Charity have an active order and a contemplative order, and I lived with both.
Especially during my time when I lived with them in Haiti: I worked alongside them in a children’s hospice, children who are dying of AIDS and malnutrition, along with a street first-aid popup tent down in Haiti.
And that’s where I cultivated the spirituality of the Imago Dei — that loving the person in front of me is literally loving Jesus.
And how to push the boundaries of what love means, to ask, “what are the demands of love in this moment?”
And when you say that someone is made in the image and likeness of God, it’s very simple, but when you actually practice that statement, it really takes you places you never thought.
Mother Teresa says that when you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. And I have felt that a lot.
LH: Well, each day I renew my daily fiat, and I give my daily fiat to the Divine Will — to give my yes, and to be an instrument to the Divine Will, and I always say: “I’m giving you my yes, Jesus. Tell me who you want me to help today. I’m here to the best of my ability.”
LH: Well, I mean, I go to the Latin Mass, and I am also very charismatic. So while I believe and worship in a very traditional way, I also believe in charismatic prayer.
And so my community is very reflective of the mosaic of my beliefs as well.
I go to a house church and a Bible study with a group of Christian reconstructionists, And I go street preaching with Abolish Human Abortion people. And a lot of my mentors are Protestant and a lot of my mentors are Catholic. And then a lot of my close friends are secular, and I just see the value of each person’s life experiences and what they have to offer, and it’s such a joy to not be stuck in one box. Because you miss out on the beauty of what everyone has to offer.
The person right now who has been of the biggest helps — while so many Catholics are currently turning their backs to me, who are spreading lies about me, who are believing Big Abortion and the media who lie — I have Terrisa, one of my closest friends, who’s not religious — who is an atheist, and who has been by my side.
I am so grateful that she is in my life. And it’s very interesting seeing that people who would traditionally be there for me have believed the lies of Big Abortion media and turned their backs.
I also want to say that there are a wealth of rich resources for people who’ve experienced pregnancy loss or an abortion, and I encourage people to seek out those resources. We don’t have to be people of “hurt people, hurt people.” We can be people of “healed, people, heal people.”
We can interrupt these cycles of violence.
And there are, once again, rich healing resources and help out there for people who’ve experienced pregnancy loss and abortion.
0 subscriptions will be displayed on your profile (edit)
Skip for now
For your security, we need to re-authenticate you.
Click the link we sent to , or click here to sign in.
Most of us might be sitting here thinking "these are not things that I could do" and then listing the specific reasons why being arrested for civil disobedience (although it is an honorable American tradition, and a proportionate response to institutionalized murder) would not be compatible with the duties that God has granted us at present. But, "Tell me who you want me to help today" seems like a thing that any of us could pray. God knows our own circumstances and what we are capable of (better than we do.)
Thanks for this interview, JD and Ed. It’s really important to hear this, even for those of us who are Catholic and prolife. Lord, have mercy.