The US Supreme Court decided today 8-1 that abortion clinics could not be protected from forcible blockades by anti-abortion extremists under federal racketeering laws. The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) immediately issued statements promising to continue to defend women’s reproductive rights despite the Supreme Court’s verdict in NOW v. Scheidler, a landmark case initiated in 1986 by FMF president Eleanor Smeal as president of NOW to curtail violence against women’s reproductive health care centers.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist argued that because the defendants did not walk away with tangible property from the clinics, they could not be punished under the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Furthermore, Rehnquist wrote, “even when their acts of interference and disruption achieved their ultimate goal of ‘shutting down’ a clinic that performed abortions, such acts did not constitute extortion.” Anti-abortion extremist Joseph Scheidler, one of the defendants, said that Operation Rescue is already planning to increase its anti-abortion protests, according to Voice of America.
“It is tragic that the Supreme Court has decided that physical property has more rights than women’s freedom of choice and lives,” said Smeal. “Religious fundamentalists should not be excused from extortion simply because they did not walk away with money in their pocket. If this is the law, then anyone with an ideological disagreement with a business can use force or violence to close down that business and the business will have no means to defend itself. Today it is rights of women, tomorrow it could be the rights of a synagogue or a church.”
NOW president Kim Gandy said in a statement that “a woman’s right to seek medical services from a clinic, and the clinics right to provide these services … [are] now under greater threat… With this reversal, NOW rededicates itself to the protection of women’s legal right to abortion.”
Justice John Paul Stevens submitted the only dissenting opinion. Stevens criticized the Court’s “murky” opinion and argued that the decision limits the protection of property owners.
Media Resources: Supreme Court decision 2/26/03; Voice of America 2/26/03; Associated Press 2/26/03; Feminist Majority Foundation, NOW release 2/26/03
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .