Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Victory in Abortion Protest Case Spanning Two Decades

Victory in Abortion Protest Case Spanning Two Decades

by Wendy Cloyd, assistant editor

A federal judge ruled that pro-life activists cannot be charged under RICO.

U.S. District Judge David Coar ruled Tuesday that laws against extortion and racketeering cannot be used to keep abortion protestors from standing outside clinics – ruling that puts to rest a legal battle spanning 21 years.
Joe Scheidler, head of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, became the center of a class action suit filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW used the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act to charge Scheidler with criminal activity for picketing abortion clinics.

"The whole idea was to break the bank," Scheidler told CitizenLink. "They thought if they came up with a federal case against pro-life activists it would scare people off.

"I've always known that if we were effective at all, they would try and stop us."

The case hinged on the argument that activists caused clinics to lose money, therefore they were acting as extortionists, he said.

"They made us look like mafia dons who were threatening abortionists," he said. "It was just ridiculous. But it convinced the jury, and we were found guilty. So we had to appeal."

The case has been winding its way through the judicial system since, reaching the Supreme Court three times. Coar's ruling is the final stop.

"We're very happy to have it over with," Scheidler said. "But throughout the 21-year battle, we never allowed the legal issues to interfere with our mission of saving lives,"

On a recent tour, he noted, more than 20 women said the information provided by the Pro-Life Action League made them change their mind about having an abortion.

"That's 20 babies saved – and that's just the ones that told us," Scheidler said. "That's 20 women who don't have to wake up in the middle of the night dejected and suicidal."

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issue analysis for Focus on the Family Action, said Scheidler has endured two decades of false charges, prosecutions, trials and legal bills for his vocal and effective stand against abortion.

"The pro-abortion crowd threw all it could muster at Scheidler," she said, "and he did more than survive, he thrived."

Learn more about NOW's 20-year battle against Scheidler at the Pro-Life Action League Web site.



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