Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

April-21-98

Jury Finds for Clinics in NOW vs. Scheidler

A federal jury in Chicago, Illinois found Operation Rescue, the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, the league's executive director Joseph Scheidler, and activists Andrew Scholber and Timothy Murphy guilty of violating the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO).

National Women's Health Organization (NWHO) President Susan Hill commented, "This is a tremendous victory for abortion providers throughout the country. We have finally cracked the conspiracy. For the first time we have proven in court what we have known for years. There is an organized campaign of terror being waged against abortion providers nationwide."

Commenting on the significance of yesterday's decision, Smeal, now president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said "We hope this decision will embolden federal law enforcement to take a criminal RICO case to shut down the anti-abortion reign of terror once and for all."

The judge may triple the jury's award of more than $85,000 under civil RICO. Because this is a class action lawsuit, Hill said she expects hundreds of clinics to seek damages. After seven weeks of testimony, the jury (composed of 4 women and 2 men) found that Scheidler and other anti-abortion extremists interfered with the clinics' ability to do business for more than 15 years. The jury also resolved that there was a nationwide campaign resulting in 21 acts of extortion, which included threats of physical violence.

Hill said, "No health care worker or patient should be subjected to the years of 'Pain and Fear' that Scheidler, Operation Rescue and their foot soldiers have inflicted on us. After having heard all of the evidence, this jury of good citizens agreed with us that Americans should be free to go to work without fear, to access health care without violence, and to operate business free from attacks."

Colleen Connell, associate legal director of the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, commented on anti-abortion claims that the ruling will open the way for violations of First Amendment rights. Connell said, "This case is not the end of the First Amendment as we know it. Nobody's saying that Scheidler can't write an op-ed piece saying abortion is murder ... But the Constitution has never been found to protect extortion: someone saying they'll break your windows every day or someone stationing a thug outside your business."

The lawsuit, NOW vs. Scheidler, was filed in 1986 by then president of the National Organization for Women, Eleanor Smeal. The suit was filed in conjunction with NWHO after the president of the local Pensacola NOW chapter was injured during a clinic invasion.

Scheidler and the other defendants are expected to appeal the verdict, along with the Chicago Archdiocese, which may appeal as a friend of the court. U.S. District Court Judge David Coar scheduled a follow-up hearing for Wednesday.

Feminist Majority Press Release:
Landmark Win! Civil RICO Case Cracks Anti-Abortion Ring of Conspiracy

Feminist News Stories on Clinic Violence

Media Resources: Washington Post - April 21, 1998


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

5/20/2015 New York Attorney General Moves to Expand Access to Contraceptives - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2015 last week to enhance the availability of contraception for New Yorkers. The bill codifies the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) in New York state law while strengthening and expanding many of its provisions. . . .
 
5/20/2015 SLUT: The Play Performance Was a Call to Action for Consent Education - Last night, SLUT: The Play, a powerful play about the realities of sexual assault in high schools, was performed for thousands at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC. In attendance was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, many advocates working to end sexual violence, and hundreds of local high school and college students. . . .
 
5/19/2015 Feminist Majority Foundation Honors Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan at Star-Studded Global Women's Rights Awards - The Feminist Majority Foundation honored award-winning television producers Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan at the 10th annual Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women's Rights Awards in West Hollywood, California. Yesterday's Global Women's Rights awards, hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and co-hosted by Mavis and Jay Leno, recognized Rhimes and Kohan as two of the most influential showrunners in television today. . . .