Pro-life activists arrested while protesting outside Capitol Hill office building: 'Justice for the 5'

Demonstrators speak at the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising's press conference and demonstration outside the D.C. Board of Medicine office in Washington, D.C. on March 21, 2023. PAAU held a weeklong series of events to raise awareness and call for "justice" about the five dead full-term aborted babies discovered by activists Terrisa Bukovinac and Lauren Handy last March.  | The Christian Post/Nicole Alcindor

Correction appended 

More than a half-dozen pro-life activists were arrested for blocking traffic while protesting on Capitol Hill to raise awareness for babies killed during late-term abortions.

The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising announced in a Twitter thread Thursday that seven pro-life activists affiliated with the organization were arrested during a protest outside the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., one of several office buildings in the U.S. Capitol Complex. The activists were holding a protest to "demand #JusticeForTheFive babies discovered by PAAU activists last year."

On March 25, 2022, activists affiliated with PAAU claimed they were given the full-term babies in question marked for disposal in boxes about to be loaded into a medical waste truck outside the office of Dr. Cesare Santangelo, a prominent abortion doctor based in Washington, D.C. The group began using the #JusticeForTheFive hashtag to describe their advocacy for five babies they found in the boxes they say were full-term.

Shortly after discovering the full-term babies on the Day of the Unborn Child last year, the pro-life activists held a press conference demanding the prosecution of Santangelo for violations of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

At the time, PAAU Executive Director Terrisa Bukovinac concluded that based on Santangelo's alleged prior admission that he did not use feticide to prevent babies from feeling pain during late-term abortions as well as the "advanced gestational age of the babies and their intact condition, the likelihood that some were born alive is undeniable."

The Twitter thread elaborated on the events that unfolded on Capitol Hill Thursday: "Holding images of the victims, the activists then moved into the street and blocked traffic in both directions. Police arrested 7 of the activists as they sang and chanted, calling upon congress to hold hearings for the babies and to pass a national abortion ban at viability."

Video footage of the moment leading up to the arrest shows a U.S. Capitol Police officer stationed behind the protesters informing them that "if you do not move from the roadways, you will be arrested." As the law enforcement official warned them of their impending arrest, PAAU Communications Director Kristin Turner was singing a song with lyrics encouraging people to "divest from big abortion."

In a statement shared with The Christian Post, the pro-life group said those arrested include Turner, Bukovinac, PAAU organizer Melanie Salazar, PAAU Director of Public Relations Caroline Smith, PAAU Digital Content Creator Elise Ketch, Pro-Life San Francisco Executive Coordinator Robert Byrd and Constance Becker. The Twitter thread noted that all seven were released from custody shortly thereafter.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Bukovinac insisted following her arrest. She described the unborn babies as "murder victims," declaring that "it's time for their killer to be held to account."

"We are demanding that Congress act by giving these babies their day in court and pass a national ban on abortion after a baby is old enough to survive outside the womb to ensure these crimes against humanity are never allowed to happen again," she added.

U.S. Capitol Police say the activists were arrested for "illegally blocking traffic on Independence Avenue, near New Jersey Avenue."

"We gave the crowd multiple warnings to get out of the street," Capitol Police announced on Twitter. "7 people who refused to clear the street are going to be charged with D.C. Code §22-1307 -crowding, obstructing, or incommoding."

PAAU held a week of activism to raise awareness and call for "justice" in response to five aborted, full-term babies discovered by activists Bukovinac and Lauren Handy last March. On Tuesday, the group protested outside the D.C. Board of Medicine office to demand the revocation of Santangelo's license to dispense medication.

Demonstrators lay on the ground in front of the D.C. Board of Medicine office in Washington, D.C. on March 21, 2023. The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising is holding a weeklong series of events to call for "justice" for the five full-term aborted babies discovered by activists Terrisa Bukovinac and Lauren Handy last March.  | The Christian Post/Nicole Alcindor

During the 117th U.S. Congress last year, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. The bill did not gain any traction, as Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress at the time. Such a proposal would likely face long odds for passage in the current 118th U.S. Congress. While the Republicans have retaken control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate and the White House. 

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling last year, which determined that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion, states have taken divergent action on abortion policy. Fourteen states have implemented total or near-total bans on abortion: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A heartbeat bill banning abortions after six weeks gestation is set to take effect in Iowa soon, and Florida has a 15-week abortion ban. An additional six states have similar abortion bans tied up in court: Arizona, Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah and Wyoming.

On the other hand, data compiled by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute shows that Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow abortion up until the moment of birth, while California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Washington allow abortions prior to viability.

Correction: A previous version of this story published on March 25, 2023, incorrectly named Robert Byrd as the executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco. His job title has been corrected to state that he is the executive coordinator for Pro-Life San Francisco. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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