The trial of the National Organization for Women vs. the director of the Pro-Life Action League, Joe Scheidler, begins this week. NOW vs. Scheidler was filed as a federal class-action lawsuit in 1986.
The case was initiated by then NOW president Eleanor Smeal, after the president of the local Pensacola NOW chapter was injured during a clinic invasion. NOW filed against Joseph Scheidler of Chicago, his Pro-Life Action League, anti-abortion activists, and later, Terry Nichols and Operation Rescue.
The US Supreme Court allowed NOW to go forward in the case against the anti-abortionists under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). NOW argued that anti-abortion extremists were hindering interstate commerce by trying to shut down the clinics. In NOW v. Scheidler, NOW represents its own members and all non-member women, “ whose rights to the services of women’s health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed have been or will be interfered with by defendants’ unlawful activities.”
Initially, a federal judge and appeals court had ruled that the suit did not fall under the RICO laws, because the anti-abortion laws would not gain a profit from closing down the clinics. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that there was no economic-gain clause in the 1970 law and let the suit stand.
Lucinda Finley, law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, commented, “The trial will be very useful in getting out on the public record the types of tactics the extremist wing of the anti-abortion movement has resorted to.”
If NOW wins the lawsuit, anti-abortion activities designed to interfere with a women’s right to use the clinics could be punishable by law across the nation.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .