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Suit Against Anti-Abortion Web Site Begins

A suit filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a women's clinic, and five doctors against creators of the "Nuremberg Files" Web site began yesterday in Portland.

The suit, originally filed in 1995, charges that the Nuremberg Files Web site violates the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) by inciting violence against abortion doctors and their patients. Passed in 1994, FACE made it a felony offense to blockade or commit violence against women's health care clinics and workers. The law was enacted to combat arsons and bombings of women's health care clinics and the murders and attempted murders of abortion providers committed by anti-abortion activists.This trial marks the first time that FACE has been used to try threats of violence, rather than actual physical confrontations.

The Nuremberg Files Web site, at publishes the names, addresses, social security numbers, license plate numbers of abortion providers, pro-choice activists, and other individuals the site creators believe are guilty of "crimes against humanity." Also available on the site are the names and birthdates of the spouses and children of targeted individuals, pictures and videotapes of targeted individuals and their homes, cars, workplaces, and friends.

In addition to making this highly sensitive, personal information available to all, the site also actively encourages visitors to seek out and obtain additional information to be posted online. Site creators also encourage photographers and computer graphics producers to "exercise creative license" in their pictures of aborted fetuses -- implying that the photos can be doctored or completely fabricated.

In a hit list of targeted individuals that includes abortion providers, security officers who protect abortion clinics, pro-choice activists, clinic owners, clinic workers, pro-choice judges and politicians, the names of murdered individuals are crossed out with a line, and the names of the wounded are shaded in gray.

Center for Reproductive Law & Policy Director and lawyer Bonnie Jones commented, "Sites like Nuremberg are a threat to doctors because the anti-abortion movement in the United States follows up on threats like that with violence. These are not words in isolation. They are typically followed up with murder."

Defendants claim that their site represents a political protest, and that they have a First Amendment right to publish it. Defendant Michael Bray is a Reformed Lutheran pastor, a convicted clinic arsonist and author of A Time to Kill, a book which advocate murdering abortion providers. In a statement made to the Associated Press, Bray threatened, "If you are blocked of public protests .... it leaves only one option: the covert use of force -- vandalism, blowing up places and terminating doctors."

First Amendment specialist Rodney Smolla of the University of Richmond law school disagrees. "You have to ask what is the ideological purpose for including all the detail [addresses, social security numbers, etc.]. It seems that the information adds little if anything to the political debate but does provide very practical advice for someone who wants to commit murder."

Media Resources: AP - January 6, 1999

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