Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that federal extortion and racketerring laws cannot be used to ban protests by violent anti-choice wackos.
Here is the text of a very good press release by the National Organization for Women (NOW) regarding this ruling:
February 28, 2006
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that could add to the increasing difficulty women face in obtaining reproductive health services. If the Court's 8-0 decision in Scheidler, et al., v. National Organization for Women (NOW), et al. and Operation Rescue v. NOW, et al. ushers in a return to clinic violence in the United States, NOW stands ready to fight in every jurisdiction.
For two decades, NOW has pursued every legal strategy, including three Supreme Court cases, to stave off the violent attacks that gripped this country from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. This case, brought under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, was one of the most successful long-term strategies. The federal jury found unanimously that these defendants had engaged in a nationwide criminal enterprise to close women's health clinics through extortion, violence and threats of violence, and specified over a hundred acts in furtherance of their efforts.
The filing of this case and the resulting injunction, which protected clinics nationwide, contributed to the dramatic reduction in clinic violence that we have witnessed in recent years, and we will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to protect women's right to obtain abortion services.
This case was never about protests or pickets—it was about violence and extortion. But without strong protections against clinic assaults, the legal right to abortion could become meaningless. If women are too terrified to walk into clinics and healthcare providers are too terrified to keep their doors open, then we will have lost the fight for reproductive freedom even with Roe v. Wade still on the books.
We will not let that happen. NOW helped to draft and enact the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 1994, and we will use that law to its fullest extent in pursuing those who would use violent means to prevent women from making their own reproductive decisions. As Susan Hill (president of the National Women's Health Organization and owner of the two clinics that joined NOW in the lawsuit) said, "[w]e cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to take this decision as a signal to once again increase violent activity aimed at clinics and clinic staff."
In the coming weeks, our attorneys will make available a FACE kit that local clinics and lawyers can use to enforce the FACE act in their communities. We must do whatever is necessary to protect doctors and patients, or our legal right to abortion will be a hollow shell.
Joseph Scheidler, Randall Terry and other leaders of the self-described "pro-life mafia" had vowed to stop abortion "by any means necessary," and the ensuing attacks included arson, bombings, violent blockades, death threats and even murder. By vacating the injunction on narrow, technical grounds, the Supreme Court sided today with thugs and bullies, not peaceful protesters.
[View it on the NOW site.]