In a remarkable display of judicial overreach, a Washington D.C. district court judge suggested a 75-year-old pro-life activist “make every effort to stay alive” while sentencing her to prison. On May 31, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced Paulette “Paula” Harlow to two years in federal prison and 36 months of supervised release for her role in a pro-life demonstration at an abortion clinic in 2020. The judge’s comments followed pleas for leniency from Harlow’s husband, John, and her attorney, citing her rapidly declining health.

Harlow was convicted of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act). Despite the serious concerns about her health, Judge Kollar-Kotelly offered a rather unconventional suggestion based on Harlow’s faith. “I would suggest that, in terms of your religion, that one of the tenets is that you should make the effort during this period of time, when it may be difficult in terms of for your husband, to make every effort to remain alive, to do the things that you need to do to survive, because that’s part of the tenets of your religion,” the judge stated.

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John Harlow, who has been his wife’s primary caregiver, expressed deep concern over the impact of the sentence. “I feel like Paulette is dying,” he said. “In my heart, I think she’s having a hard time staying alive.” Defense attorney Allen Orenberg argued that interrupting her care could be detrimental to her health. “She cannot continue to exist without support, especially that of her husband,” Orenberg emphasized. He also mentioned John’s resolve to stay by his wife’s side, saying, “Well, if Paulette goes to prison, I want to go with her. I want to be there for her. She’s going to need me. She can’t continue to live without me.”

Currently, Harlow is under house arrest as authorities determine a federal facility that can provide her with proper medical care. She is prohibited from coming within 1,000 feet of an abortion clinic.

Though some criticized Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s remarks, Harlow took them in stride. “It was just her expression. Just saying try to stay alive. ‘That’s also a tenet of your faith,’ which, yeah, it is a tenant of my faith. But also, saving children is a tenet of my faith. I think it wasn’t anything that I would say, but I – at the time, I was pondering and am still pondering (the sentence),” Harlow told Fox News.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly has a history of imposing harsh sentences on pro-life activists. Last month, she sentenced multiple activists to years-long terms for blocking access to the Washington Surgi-Clinic on Oct. 22, 2020. The DOJ Office of Public Affairs reported sentences ranging from 21 to 57 months for those involved, including Lauren Handy, John Hinshaw, William Goodman, Jonathan Darnel, Herb Geraghty, Jean Marshall, Joan Bell, and Heather Idoni.

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