"I guess hacking has joined rioting as 'thought crimes'."
No. They're both just "crimes". Rioting has never been considered a "though crime" by anyone with even half a brain. Lobbing bricks through a 100-year-old, family-owned, furniture store before setting it on fire isn't "protesting". It's just criminal.
Regarding the News International case: remember that the hackers not only copped to the charge, but also gave evidence in court against their NI paymasters. This is likely to have made the judge a little more lenient towards them—after all, their victims weren't poverty-stricken single mothers, rape victims and the like, but (mostly) wealthy celebrities, politicians and successful businesspeople. NI is going to be slammed by a swathe of civil lawsuits claiming lots of damages once this trial is fully over; the time spent in jail by the hackers is a lot less important than how much money those hackers' victims are going to be able to squeeze out of Murdoch's empire. Hit NI where it hurts the most: right in the profit and loss accounts.
What this abortion clinic hacker did, on the other hand, was personal. It was like breaking into someone's home, making copies of all the files and smearing "I KNO WHERE U ALL LIVE!" on the walls in his own excrement.
If you wish to protest against abortion, there are ways of doing so that are a lot less damaging to all parties involved and, frankly, a lot more mature. Hacking an abortion clinic is NOT "debate". It is not "protest". It instils fear in the clinic's staff and their customers. It shatters their reputation for discretion and privacy—no mother goes around proclaiming how many abortions they've had like it's something to be proud of: it's painful, both physically and emotionally. As a result, that clinic may well have to close. Well done: more people unemployed in an already buggered economy.
This arsehole was a bully. An immature little child, throwing a tantrum, stamping his feet and demanding EVERYONE does what HE wants them to do, because only his opinion matters. Because only HE is right. And everybody else is wrong.
The sentence was more than justified.