In a blow for advocates of safe and legal abortion, the Supreme Court today decided to review part of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision in NOW v Scheidler, the civil case where anti-abortion extremists were found to have conspired illegally to close women’s reproductive health clinics, by using threats and extortionate acts against doctors, clinic employees and patients, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). “After 16 years, yet another hurdle for justice,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Smeal initiated the case in 1986 as president of the National Organization for Women.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review two issues: whether the actions of the anti-abortion extremists, including restraining clinic workers and patients, entering clinics and destroying medical equipment and blocking doorways and entrances to clinics, qualify as extortion under the Hobbs Act and whether private plaintiffs, such as NOW, can get injunctions under RICO as the government can.
In its review of the case, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that “the record is replete with evidence of instances in which their [the anti-abortion extremists’] 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.”
The case will be heard in the 2002-2003 term.
Media Resources: Associated Press, 4/22/02; Feminist Majority Foundation
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. . . .