Those Who Give All for Life
I got to know Will Goodman when I was in graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin, some ten years ago. On Friday afternoons I prayed outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Will would often be there with another member of a pro-life apostolate, and the three of us would pray together.
Will is a good-natured man with a friendly demeanor and warm smile. But there is something that burns hard and bright inside of Will. He is pro-life in a very different way than I am. He has a moral flame that illuminates dark places where others like myself fear to go. Will has given up material comfort and often his freedom, in order to protect mothers and their babies. And has often been arrested for helping to save innocent and preyed-upon unborn children and their mothers from the violence of the abortion industry. He lives the pro-life message, eschewing the worldly considerations that preoccupy me.
In the years since I left Madison, I have seen Will’s name in Catholic newspapers and on pro-life websites, sometimes in conjunction with pro-life rescues at abortion mills. Usually, these news items are brief and quickly forgotten. The world goes on, the killing of the preborn continues.
Recently, though, when I saw Will’s name in the news again, I knew that something was different.
The Truth about the DC Fetal Remains
Many who are reading this will have heard about the incident in late March when Washington DC police retrieved the bodies of five aborted children from an apartment in the city. Some news stories mentioned Will, because he and Lauren Handy, who lived in the apartment, have recently been charged with federal crimes for an October 2020 pro-life rescue they participated in at Washington Surgi-Clinic in DC, run by notorious late-term abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo.
The federal charges in the October 2020 incident were filed the day after the DC police recovered the aborted children’s remains from Handy’s apartment. Handy is affiliated with a pro-life group called Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), which had alerted the city’s Chief Medical Officer as to the presence of the bodies. The Chief Medical Examiner then notified the Metropolitan Police. The children in question had been killed at the same DC clinic—the one run by Cesare Santangelo—that Will and his companions had blockaded in 2020.
The news broke almost immediately. Mainstream media sites were splashed with lurid headlines. False reports abounded. Some outlets even seemed to enjoy portraying Handy and other prolifers as deranged.
In an effort to learn the truth, I reached out to Will. Will was not present at Handy’s apartment and did not help her obtain the fetal remains police took away from there, though he has been involved in similar missions before. I wondered about the reporting in the press, and asked him whether any of it was true. Will replied in an email:
“The DC and national press lied about and manipulated this recent story to deliberately create the false narrative, which was calculated to best serve the interests of the abortion industrial-political complex, viz., make pro-lifers look ‘crazy,’ and make abortion look ‘normal.’ This is nothing new,” he said.
“However,” Will continued, “both the timing of this media propaganda blitz and the recent FBI raids on peaceful pro-lifers seem to have been more than a mere ‘coincidence.’ The pro-abortion media, and pro-abortion flanks of the Department of Justice, are very committed to painting their ideological adversaries in the worst possible light. It is a deliberate strategy.”
Will put me in touch with Lauren Handy, so I could cut past the media spin and ask her directly about the apartment and the fetal remains. I sent her some interview questions and she wrote back within a day or so. She confirmed that what happened in her DC apartment is very different from what many news accounts have led us to believe.
“When the story first broke,” Lauren wrote me, “rumors, speculation, misinformation and outright lies started spiraling quickly, from saying I had these children for two-plus years, or that I stole them from Washington State University, or even that they were my own children that I self-aborted. Even silly accusations to discredit me as a leftist pro-lifer by saying I voted for Trump,” she said.
“I openly laughed at that one, because . . . as a Catholic anarchist I don’t participate in electoral elections, but even if I did, both times I physically couldn’t vote. In Trump’s first election, I spent the entire day in jail for a Rescue effort, and in his second election I was in California, protesting the use of later-term aborted babies being used for medical experimentation.”
It was clear from the great disparity there was between what the mainstream media was reporting and what eyewitnesses had to say that very few major outlets had any interest in telling the truth about Lauren Handy or the dead children in her apartment.
“Most of the articles read like yellow journalism or a rag magazine,” Lauren continued in her email. “There were some folks who stuck to the facts, and they were mostly from news sources that are traditionally sympathetic towards pro-lifers. But I learned very quickly that everyone has an agenda and there were few I could trust those first couple days.”
Lauren shared with me a long interview featured at The Pillar website on April 6. Readers are encouraged to read the entire thing. According to Terissa Bukovinac, an atheist prolifer who worked with Handy to recover the children’s remains and who also spoke with The Pillar, this is what occurred:
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.
[(The Pillar) 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 . . .
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.
When I was reading news reports, I came across some articles that carried photographs of the babies Lauren and Terrisa found. There is one in particular that will haunt me forever. It is of the little girl whom Bukovinac mentions above, the baby with “one eye open.”
The photograph is on Live Action founder Lila Rose’s Twitter page—here, but please be warned, it is extremely graphic. The little girl’s eye stares up at the camera. She seems to be looking directly at the viewer, asking us to witness what has been done to her.
Seeing Abortion for What It Is
In the e-mail interview I did with Lauren, I learned that the little girl’s name is Harriet.
I asked Lauren to describe what was going through her mind when she and the others in her group were removing Harriet and the other children from the boxes and plastic bags in which they had been sealed. She answered:
During my living with Mother Teresa’s order Missionaries of Charity in Haiti, I worked at a children’s hospice. I saw children . . . babies dying of AIDS and effects of malnutrition. One child’s skin was falling off in chunks, meaning I have seen, held, loved children in extreme situations. But holding these murder victims, something broke in me . . . I will never be the same.
To be able to feel extreme horror and overwhelming love—to want to hold and kiss their sweet little faces while also never wanting to see their broken bodies created this limbo of emotional whiplash. To an extent it reminds me of the brutality of the Crucifixion of Jesus, where you want to look away but also kiss the Holy Wounds of Jesus . . .
Lauren and her companions were brought into sorrowful, painful communion with those children that day. It is impossible, after that, to turn aside from Harriet’s piercing, lifeless gaze:
I would also like to add that “never being the same” isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, because injustice thrives when we stay the course through upholding the status quo. Harriet, whose eye was open when we found her . . . she is looking to me . . . to you . . . to all of us for justice.
Laying Harriet and Her Companions to Rest
One way in which the living can do justice by the dead is to provide them a decent burial, as Jesus commanded and as nearly all human cultures—except the culture of death—practice in some way. Lauren shared an article from Catholic News Agency about a Catholic priest who buried the murdered children she had brought to her DC apartment:
A West Virginia priest is speaking publicly about his role in providing a funeral Mass and dignified burial for more than 100 aborted babies that pro-life activists say they rescued outside of a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic.
“I buried the babies myself,” Father Bill Kuchinsky, 62, a longtime advocate for the unborn who also runs the Catholic prison ministry for the entire state of West Virginia, revealed in an interview with CNA. He declined to disclose the burial location other than to say it was in a private cemetery.
“They are in a peaceful place and will be well cared for,” Kuchinsky said, adding that a “proper headstone” will be added, eventually. “They do have a large statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary looking directly over them for now,” he said.
CNA also found that Fr. Kuchinsky’s bishop, Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, fully supports the actions Fr. Kuchinsky took to ensure the babies’ remains were treated respectfully:
“Father William Kuchinsky’s Mass for and burial of around 100 children aborted at a Washington, D.C., abortion facility follow a long Christian tradition of practicing the corporal work of mercy for the dead, honoring their physical remains and burying them with love,” Brennan said in a statement to CNA Tuesday. “I fully approve Father Kuchinsky’s caring actions. They remind us that these were real human children, not lifeless things — until their lives were unjustly taken from them,” the bishop added.
When I asked Lauren about what charges she might face for her work of corporal mercy—in addition to the charges already filed against her for her previous pro-life work—she returned to the importance of respecting and burying the dead:
No charges have been filed against us and no police have contacted us—It’s a waiting game at this point but I’m not worried. I think of two quotes, one from the Book of Tobit and another from Sophocles’ Antigone.
But Tobias fearing God more than the king, carried off the bodies of those that were slain, and hid them in his house, and at midnight buried them. Tobit 2:9
But I will bury him; and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me. It is the dead not the living, who make the longest demands: We die for ever . . . You may do as you like since apparently the laws of the god mean nothing to you. Sophocles, Antigone.
Will, too, speaks of the acts of mercy that prolifers do for the least of our brothers and sisters. “These little ones who were killed in the womb are each unique and unrepeatable human persons created in the image and likeness of Almighty God.” He goes on:
Yet, they were wholly denied their just dignity during their short lives. For over fifty years, the pro-life community has been offering these dead babies dignified treatment after their murders by holding special Requiem Masses, mournful prayer vigils, and solemn burials in consecrated church cemeteries. These small acts of love follow the two-thousand-year history of Catholic Church teaching calling upon the faithful to practice the particular corporal work of mercy: bury the dead.
The Structure of Sins against the Preborn
Those who do pro-life work are often imprisoned and are very frequently impoverished—they give up everything so that others may live.
As Lauren told me: “I have four trials this year from various Rescue efforts and a couple judges have tried to revoke my bonds, because they have read the news, but I am not afraid. Wherever God, in His Divine Will, places me, I will glorify Him and serve those around me.”
Will, too, lives in poverty in solidarity with the preborn. “I have no personal foundation or tax-exempt organization,” he says. “I have been relying on God’s Providence since 1996 in order to do this work. God is so good to me . . . better than I deserve.”
But one thing that may be even more difficult to bear than the physical discomfort of cold prison cells—and sparse living arrangements when not in jail—is spiritual anguish. A heroic pro-life priest I know in Alabama has told me that he has encountered witchcraft and other evil influence while praying outside abortion mills. The devil targets those who do good, and especially those who seek to thwart the evil done to the most helpless and most innocent.
Those who go inside the clinics and witness the results of the butchery, as Lauren and her companions have done, face even starker spiritual battles. They meet evil firsthand. They see the ugliness of violence; what it does to the human body and soul.
I ask Lauren, “What is your view of the spiritual dimension of this fight? In my view, the people who mutilated the children you found are almost certainly under the influence of the devil. What those people did is satanic.”
Her reply was simple, and it stopped me in my tracks. “I would just like to point to the quote, ‘No one enters violence for the first time by committing it,’ from Danielle Sered.”
Violence, in other words, is fostered and conceded to long before it culminates in harm to the flesh. Violence is born in the heart and brought forth by a world that encourages it, which actually longs for violence in some way.
The coverage of Lauren Handy’s acts of compassion and rescue reinforces the structural nature of the violence that has taken hold of America. The culture of death is a system, a machine. Lies about pro-life work keep this machine oiled and humming along. The machine runs on money, hatred, fear, ambition, arrogance, and contempt. And it relies on a tacit acceptance of the violence by the wider community as an unfortunate part of the political and institutional landscape.
I asked Lauren about politics, about whether she thought the Biden administration was more anti-life than the Obama administration was, and whether she saw any marked change in anti-life actions under Trump. I also asked her about American culture in general—is it becoming more pro-life while the abortionists and their supporters are becoming more pro-death?
“I believe Biden is more beholden to the Abortion Industry because of all the the pro-abortion lobbyist money that went into getting him elected,” Handy replied. “After the six-week [abortion] ban in Texas was upheld, pro-abortion talking heads and politicians criticized Biden and the Department of Justice for their lack of action, so I believe the 9 charged with FACE [i.e., Handy, Goodman, and seven others who were charged in late March with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for the October 2020 rescue mission] are being used to appease the death crowd.”
“Plus,” Lauren continued, “we have to remember [Vice President Kamala] Harris weaponized her CA state level position to go after David [Daleiden] after the CMP [Center for Medical Progress] videos were released. She has been entangled with Big Abortion for a while now. Same with the DC Mayor [Muriel Bowser]. It’s her election year, and after she was endorsed by pro-abortion Emily’s List, she sent out a letter calling me an anti-abortion extremist. Which of course doesn’t faze me because I immediately think of the quote from Martin Luther King Jr.:
So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
“Radical acts of violence,” Lauren continued, “must be met with radical acts of love, even if it’s just a minority of folks willing to risk their freedoms, life and social standing to put themselves between the oppressed and the oppressor.”
As for upcoming Supreme Court decisions and how much stock, if any, she puts in what the judicial branch will do, Handy notes: “As a Catholic anarchist I believe our government is amoral and so I put my faith in people power. Regardless of the SCOTUS decision I believe we can dismantle the Abortion Industrial Complex most effectively on a community-based level through mutual aid, nonviolent direct action and advocacy. “You can see more here,” she adds, linking to a PAAU page about capitalism and abortion.
Helping the Prolife Work of Others’ Hands
I close the interview by asking Handy what people can do to support her and the loving, lifesaving work that she and her companions are doing.
“On top of all that’s happened,” she says, “I am still doing full-time sidewalk counseling, mentoring/helping families in crisis pregnancies, and serving folks within homeless communities. I do this through the nonprofit I founded, MercyMissions.net. If people feel compelled to support this work they can do so here: https://donorbox.org/mercy-missions
“I have helped over 700 families choose life instead of abortion and we are currently seeing 1 to 2 moms choosing life during our weekly outreaches.”
Will and other prolifers need help, too. “For those who would like to support my mission as a rescuer with Red Rose Rescue,” Will says, “a donation may be made to Dr. Monica Miller at Citizens for a Pro-life Society” (make a note that the donation is for Red Rose Rescue).
He goes on:
We are also hoping to set up a large fundraising platform to help us in our huge legal battle against the wicked Department of Justice. Rescuers do not have money to hire attorneys. And pro-life public interest law firms do not have billions of dollars of resources like the Attorney General or US Prosecutor’s Office. In our Grand Jury felony case, we hope to establish a truthful evidentiary record so to argue for Fourteenth Amendment protection for all preborn children, utilize the best pro-life expert witnesses and defense attorneys, and mount an affirmative ‘defense of others’ against our unjust felony charges stemming from our rescue mission conducted at Caesar Santangelo’s late-term abortion house of horrors in 2020.
Lauren Handy, Terissa Bukovinac, Will Goodman, and a small coterie of other dedicated prolifers are in the world, challenging the sinful and dehumanizing practice of abortion—of all forms of violence against women and children.
There are others in the fight, too—the tens of millions of Americans who have been slain in abortion clinics over the past half-century. In pieces or intact, killed by scalpel, vacuum tube, or chemical bath, these children ask all of us to work for the justice they did not know in this life.
Harriet’s one open eye—it looks at me now, long after I have clicked away from the photograph and turned to another page. She looks to me for justice. What will I do for Harriet? What will I do?