Elderly pro-lifer’s husband begs court for mercy as judge sentences ailing wife to prison

Paulette Harlow, age 75, was sentenced in a Washington, D.C. federal court on the afternoon of May 31 in relation to her participation in an October 2020 rescue action at the Washington Surgi-Clinic abortion facility, run by notorious abortionist Cesare Santangelo.

Unlike her co-defendants — Lauren Handy, John Hinshaw, William Goodman, Jonathan Darnel, Herb Geraghty, Jean Marshall, Joan Bell, and Heather Idoni — who were immediately incarcerated following their convictions, Harlow has been on house arrest due to ill health following her November 2023 conviction of so-called “conspiracy against rights” and FACE Act violations. In spite of Harlow’s poor health, however, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced her to serve 24 months in federal prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release. 

Prior to Kollar-Kotelly’s pronouncement of Harlow’s sentence, statements were made by government attorney Rebecca Ross, defense attorney Allen Orenberg, the defendant’s husband, John Harlow, and Harlow herself. 

In her statement for the government, attorney Ross insisted the case was “not about the defendant’s beliefs,” but rather about “violent obstruction of reproductive healthcare” and “violating the civil rights of others.” Ross accused Harlow of attempting to use her poor health as an “excuse” to “escape the consequences” of her actions and of lying under oath at her trial, though exactly how Harlow allegedly did the latter was not made clear. Ross claimed that Harlow “denied empathy and compassion” to women attempting to abort their children on the day of the rescue, and recommended a sentence of 33-41 months.

Defense attorney Orenberg emphasized that Harlow’s health is rapidly declining, and that interrupting her current care by sending her to prison would be detrimental to her already-fragile condition. “She cannot continue to exist without support, especially that of her husband,” Orenberg stated. He also noted that Harlow is a mother of 6, including 4 adopted children, and a grandmother of 8, as well as a respected member of both her civic and church communities.

John Harlow spoke next, delivering a heartfelt emotional statement on his wife’s behalf. “I feel like Paulette is dying,” he said. “In my heart, I think she’s having a hard time staying alive.” He referred to himself as his wife’s “valet,” explaining that he provides all of her necessary care, and expressed that he would gladly take her place in prison, if he could. 

READ: Sentencing of pro-life activists continues as grandmother receives two years

“We’ve tried to be good people,” he continued, adding, “I love my wife dearly. She’s made me go beyond what I’d otherwise have done” to help others. He concluded by saying, “We’re throwing ourselves on the mercy of the court.”

In her statement, Harlow emphasized that the portrayal of the rescuers as callous and lacking sympathy for pregnant women is untrue.

“We were there because we are compassionate, we do care, and we love them,” she said. “It’s despicable that in this country we have pregnant women and we can’t do anything to help them except offer to kill their child. That’s not help at all,” she stated. “It’s not good healthcare when one of the people involved has to die,” she observed, adding, “I don’t think women are being cared for properly in this country. Offering them abortion is only taking advantage of them when they are afraid.”

Judge Kollar-Kotelly echoed the accusations of the prosecution in her closing comments, claiming that Harlow violated abortion-seekers’ civil rights, describing the rescue action as “violent,” and characterizing Harlow as lacking in kindness and remorse. After pronouncing sentence, Kollar-Kotelly made a cryptic statement regarding her hope that Harlow would “make an effort to remain alive” because that is a “tenet of [Harlow’s] religion.”

Harlow is being permitted to remain on house arrest while determinations are being made regarding which federal facility is suitable to provide her necessary level of medical care. Like her co-defendants, she is being forbidden from coming within 1000 feet of any abortion facility during her period of supervised release.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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