A Federal jury in Chicago, Illinois found that Operation Rescue, the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, the league’s executive director Joseph Scheidler, and activists Andrew Scholber and Timothy Murphy violated 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.”
The judge is expected to 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. The jury, composed of 4 women and 2 men, found Scheidler and other anti-abortion extremists libel of interfering 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.”
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.
Commenting on the national significance of today’s decision, Smeal, currently the President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said “We hope today’s 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.”
Feminist Majority Press Release:
Landmark Win! Civil RICO Case Cracks Anti-Abortion Ring of Conspiracy
Feminist News Stories on Clinic Violence
Media Resources: AP, NWHO and FM Press Release - April 20, 1998