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.
10/13/2015 EEOC Launches Hollywood Gender Discrimination Probe - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has contacted several women directors in Hollywood in an effort to determine whether legal intervention is necessary to disrupt the industry's discriminatory hiring practices.
In a letter sent to some 50 women filmmakers, the EEOC - which is responsible for protecting individuals from employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin through enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - requested interviews with them to "learn more about the gender-related issues" women behind the camera face in both the film and television industries.
In May, following the release of a study by the San Diego State University Center for the Study of Women in Television in Film revealing only 7 percent of 2014's 250 top-grossing movies were helmed by women, the ACLU of Southern California and the national ACLU Women's Rights Project urged state and federal rights agencies to investigate Hollywood's failure to hire equal numbers of women. . . .
10/12/2015 Report Finds Texas' HB2 Increases Abortion Wait Times - A new report released by the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Policy Evaluation Project found patients seeking abortions in Texas have experienced an increase in wait times since the passage of HB2, the 2013 Texas omnibus anti-abortion bill that attempts to cut off abortion access by requiring abortion providers in the state to fulfill medically unnecessary ambulatory surgical center requirements and secure hospital admitting privileges.
More than half of 42 clinics providing abortion in Texas have been forced to shut their doors since HB2 passed two years ago, leading Texas women to wait up to 20 days for a first consult at one of the surviving 18 reproductive health clinics operating in the state, the second most populous in the nation. . . .
10/9/2015 Federal Judge Orders Anti-Abortion Group to Cede Footage to NAF - On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its leader David Daleidan must turn over all previously unreleased "sting" videos and outtakes of National Abortion Federation (NAF) meetings the group obtained surreptitiously as part of a smear campaign against the abortion provider.
U.S. . . .