The anti-abortion activist accused of storing fetal remains in her home has spent years tweeting about scouring abortion clinic grounds for fetuses and then burying them.
Lauren Handy, indicted Wednesday for allegedly blockading an abortion clinic, has not hidden her interest in creeping around abortion clinics. In a Twitter thread published in October 2020, Handy said that, by 2016, she was “regularly dumpster diving” at a Maryland abortion clinic to retrieve fetuses for a “proper burial.”
“My plan was to retrieve the children for proper burial. This led to a tough conversation with my dad,” Handy, 28, wrote. “I asked him how he felt about me bringing aborted-baby body parts home to put in the basement freezer so they wouldn’t rot while I arranged a quick burial.”
“He (unsurprisingly) freaked the fuck out and said under no circumstances would I be allowed to bring dead baby parts home,” Handy continued. “Looking back now I realize that it was probably an unnatural response from me to not *understand* where he was coming from [because] I was already desensitized from arranging a private burial for three other abortion children.”
Washington, D.C., police told VICE News they found the five fetuses in a Capitol Hill home on Wednesday, the same day that federal prosecutors announced they’d indicted Handy for allegedly blockading an abortion clinic in 2020.
Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, an anti-abortion group that lists Handy as a member, confirmed in a tweet that the home belonged to Handy and that five “deceased children” had been found there. Now, the group seems more focused on framing the revelation about the fetuses as a kind of whistleblowing, rather than addressing the allegations at the heart of the federal case against Handy.
Handy, along with eight other defendants allegedly involved in the blockade, has been indicted for violating the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Under that law, it is a crime to damage reproductive health clinic property or to threaten, obstruct, or injure someone who wants access to a clinic. The defendants have also been indicted for engaging in a conspiracy against people’s rights to seek, obtain, and provide reproductive health services.
If convicted, they could each face 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to prosecutors.
D.C. news outlet WUSA9 was the first to report the news about the fetuses in Handy’s home. Handy declined to say what was in coolers removed by police, but she told the CBS station, “People would freak out when they heard.”
In a press release, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising says that, prior to the arrest, “one of the defendants privately arranged for the Washington, D.C., police homicide unit” to pick up the fetuses. A representative for the group declined to comment to VICE News when asked about Handy’s history of tweeting about burying fetuses found near abortion clinics, but said that the group plans to hold a press conference on Tuesday.
Although that release starts by acknowledging the federal case, it quickly pivots to the fetuses, which the group says underwent a “funeral mass” and “naming ceremony.” Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising lists numerous questions that they say they will answer at the Tuesday conference; the majority focus on the fetuses rather than the charges that could land Handy behind bars for years.
A Justice Department spokesperson told VICE News via email that the department does not have any comment beyond its Wednesday press release on the indictments. “We are not offering any other information currently as this is an ongoing and active investigation,” Washington police told VICE News in an email.
Today, mainstream abortion opponents tend to decry using aborted fetuses, or even images of aborted fetuses, to make their point. But activists who drift along the fringes of the movement have used them in the past. In 2016, prominent anti-abortion activist Rev. Frank Pavone displayed a fetus in a Facebook Live video, where he urged people to vote for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Because here before me lies a baby, killed by abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy,” Pavone said in the video. He later apologized, HuffPost reported.
In a thread Friday, abortion rights activist Robin Marty, who runs operations at an Alabama abortion clinic, clarified that clinics do not put fetal remains in the trash.
“Today, clinics place anything that could contain any sort of pathogen or blood in biohazard containers that are picked up by service providers. Some—like ours—are also required to send all POC (products of conception) to a pathology lab,” Marty tweeted. “Dumpsters are for trash. Period.”
In recent years, abortion opponents have pushed legislation that would force clinics to bury or cremate fetuses—a requirement that, abortion rights advocates say, not only aims to make their jobs more onerous and ultimately shut them down but also punishes pregnant people who may not want to engage in funeral rites.
Those October 2020 tweets were far from the only time Handy tweeted about aborted fetuses. In February 2019, Handy tweeted about “my desire to liberate the bodies of aborted babies from med waste companies and give them a proper burial.”
Then, in 2020, Handy asked, “How can I break off a bond with someone who helped me dumpster dive to retrieve aborted babies for burial? Or go inside abortion centers together?” That same year, she also tweeted about how she regretted that she “got caught dumpster diving” and ran away without any fetuses.
“Those humans deserved a burial,” she tweeted.
“How can I miss someone I’ve never seen? Well, scratch that, miss someone I’ve only encountered by holding their little broken body,” Handy tweeted in March 2021, adding that she found “the little boy” while “dumpster diving at an abortion center.” “He was given a proper Catholic burial with a priest,” Handy added. Handy appeared to name the fetus Joseph Patrick.
In May 2021, Handy tweeted about a time in 2016 when, she said, she arrived too late “to retrieve aborted babies for burial.”
In a separate instance that same month, Handy tweeted that she was “going to pick out a picture frame for this ultrasound of a child killed by abortion.” She said two associates “went dumpster diving” at an abortion clinic and came back with the ultrasound image.
More recently, on March 23, 2022, Handy posted on Facebook that she had accessed the University of Washington’s “fetal organ labs and freezers.”
A public defender for Handy didn’t immediately reply to a VICE News request for comment.