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

October-02-01

Anti-Abortion Extremists Suffer Major Court Defeat

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled unanimously in favor of National Organization for Women (NOW) in NOW v. Scheidler, the civil case where anti-abortion extremists were found to have conspired to illegally close women’s reproductive health clinics, using threats and extortionate acts against doctors, clinic employees and patients, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The decision is a major victory for the plaintiffs, NOW, Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal who, as president of NOW in 1986, initiated the case, two clinics in Delaware and Milwaukee owned by Susan Hill who is president of the National Women’s Health Organization, and clinics and pro-choice supporters everywhere. The attorneys involved, led by Faye Clayton of Robinson, Curley and Clayton, were assisted during the appeal by Feminist Majority Foundation’s Legal Director at the time, Sara N. Love.

“After fifteen long years, this is an unequivocal victory against the reign of terror at our nations’ clinics. It could not have happened at a better time. Both domestic terrorists and global terrorists must get the message: the United States has zero tolerance for the use of violence to determine public policy,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

The Court found that the repeated assaults by Scheidler et. al. and those acting in concert with them, including restraining clinic workers and patients, entering clinics and destroying medical equipment and blocking doorways and entrances to clinics, were violations of the Hobbs Act and RICO. The Seventh Circuit upheld the nationwide injunction put in place by the lower court that prohibits any of the plaintiffs from obstructing access to clinics, damaging clinic property, or using force or threats of force against clinics, employees, staff, and patients.

The Court rejected Scheidler’s defense that its actions were protected by the First Amendment stating “the record is replete with evidence of instances in which their conduct crossed the line from protected speech to illegal acts, including acts of violence.” Further, the Court stated that letters sent by Joseph Scheidler, a key anti-abortion extremist, to clinics promising assaults if the clinic remained open “constituted true threats outside the protection of the First Amendment.” Because the defendants were board members of the same organization, participated in the planning of assaults, and wrote letters in support of such acts, the Court found that the organization itself, not simply isolated members, had illegal aims.

This litigation began before the enactment of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and extremists like Scheidler terrorized abortion clinics without fear of federal law enforcement intervention. NOW decided that a litigation strategy was essential to stop these attacks and began this case. In these fifteen years, NOW’s novel legal strategy was challenged repeatedly; NOW attorney Clayton, successfully defended all attacks, including in the Supreme Court.

Media Resources: National Organization for Women


© 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

12/19/2014 Woman on Life Support Revives Ireland Abortion Debate - Debate surrounding Ireland's ban on abortion has come up again following a current case involving a woman who is being kept on life support because she is pregnant. The woman's family wants her to be taken off life support, but doctors refuse because Irish law says they must do what they can to protect the 16-week-old fetus. . . .
 
12/19/2014 DC City Council Unanimously Approves Reproductive Health Anti Discrimination Bill - Wednesday, the Washington, DC City Council unanimously passed a bill that will prohibit employer interference in the reproductive health decisions of their employees. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 was first introduced by DC Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), just ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of for-profit retail chain Hobby Lobby this summer. . . .
 
12/19/2014 Incremental Gains for Women in Congress - When the 114th Congress is sworn into office on January 3rd, 2015, there will be exactly the same number of women in Senate as the year before, 20, and a record-high number of women in the US House, 84. . . .