Jailed Pro-Lifer, Awaiting Appeal, Spends Time in Prayer and Reading Catholic Classics

John Hinshaw, of Long Island, New York, has been sentenced to 21 months in jail for violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

John Hinshaw is supported by friends and family, including his wife, Brenda.
John Hinshaw is supported by friends and family, including his wife, Brenda. (photo: Courtesy of Brenda Hinshaw; Shutterstock background)

On May 14, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced John Hinshaw, 68, of Long Island, New York, to 21 months in jail for violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits threats of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health-care services or with churches. 

The Washington, D.C., center at which Hinshaw and others protested was operated by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, who performed abortions through the ninth month. It’s the same center where five late-term aborted babies, who may have either been killed by illegal partial-birth abortion procedures or after being born alive, were discovered.

At the sentencing, Hinshaw read a moving statement to the jury and judge.

Speaking from prison with the Register, Hinshaw said the guard who led him from a holding room to the courtroom on the day of sentencing exclaimed, “The place is packed!” Pro-life supporters from up and down the East Coast came to support and pray for the defendants.  

Hinshaw said the conditions have been decent at the northern Virginia prison, but said that he’s rarely allowed any time outside at all. He’s allowed calls with his family and time to talk with other inmates in a general purpose room. There’s a TV, but no internet access. He gets enough food, receives mail, and can use a tablet to read books.   

With a lot of reading time, he’s currently reading books by G.K. Chesterton and Cardinal St. John Henry Newman. 

But his access to regular Sunday Mass has been complicated by logistical challenges. He mentioned a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, that he attended in January.

A notice of appeal has already been filed by Hinshaw’s attorney, Alfred Guillaume, a court-appointed attorney working with the Thomas More Society. If accepted by the D.C. appellate court, it could take months, even over a year. If that court upholds the conviction and sentencing, “then we’re looking at the Supreme Court,” Hinshaw stated.

In the meantime, it’s possible that Hinshaw could be transferred from northern Virginia to a federal internment camp in Danbury, Connecticut, as it’s closer to his family. 

“The Bureau of Prisons does have a policy to keep prisoners near family if possible,” Hinshaw said. His attorney has requested the move, but has not yet received an answer.

“One thing we want pro-lifers to be aware of is that we’re not just looking for release; we want a full pardon, with no government attachments. Otherwise, there could be all sorts of requirements, like staying 1,000 [feet] away from abortion centers, controlling and restricting us in various ways.”

In an email sent out by Hinshaw’s brother, Rick Hinshaw, also a long time pro-lifer, to a group of Long Island pro-lifers and family and friends, he pointed out some surprising aspects of the sentencing:

“John was sentenced to 21 months in prison,” Rick Hinshaw wrote. “With credit for nine months already served, he has one year left. He should be back home with his family within a year, at most. This is far better, or, more accurately, far less bad, than we had reason to expect. And it is truly a testament to the power of prayer.”

Kollar-Kotelly remanded the defendants to jail immediately upon conviction in August 2023, something not initiated by prosecutors. 

Rick Hinshaw, in his email, discussed this point, “There is no way, we believed, that the judge would deliver sentences less than those recommended by the prosecution. And yet, that is exactly what she did. We got an inkling of this when Lauren Handy was sentenced first, to five years, an obscene injustice, but still less than the over-six years recommended by the prosecution. Next was John, and the judge gave him 21 months, less than the minimum 27 months recommended by prosecutors.”

“As I told several reporters afterward, every day that John has been incarcerated has been an injustice; and every additional day he is to spend in prison only exacerbates that injustice,” wrote Rick Hinshaw. “That being said, I am of course deeply grateful to God that John will be returned to his family far sooner than we had expected.”

Speaking to the Register from his jail cell, John Hinshaw praised the many people who have been supporting him and the other defendants since the day of his conviction. He said he receives mail regularly from both pro-lifers he knows as well as complete strangers, expressing their frustration with the unfair prosecution of these defendants. The letters detail the Masses, Rosaries, prayers and sacrifices they’ve been making for true justice for the defendants and for the unborn babies.

“People are having prayer services all over the place for us,” Hinshaw added. “The expression of support has just been tremendous.”

Washington Surgi-Clinic on F St. NW in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2022.

Pro-Lifers Imprisoned Under FACE Act Speak Out

Joan Andrews Bell, a 76-year-old Catholic, who was sentenced to two years and three months in prison, shared a statement in which she vowed to continue advocating for the unborn and called on others to join her in prayer.