Pro-choice supporters received their second victory against domestic terrorism today as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in an unusual opinion to review en banc the three-judge panel decision in Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette, et al. v. American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), et al., also known as the “Nuremberg Files” case. In this groundbreaking case, the court ruled in 1999 that “WANTED” posters and Internet sites targeting and threatening doctors were “true threats” and not protected free speech by the U.S. Constitution. A jury found the defendants liable for threats under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and awarded plaintiffs a $107.5 million judgment. In March 2001, a three-judge panel reversed that determination saying that the First Amendment protected ACLA’s actions.
In the March decision, the Court characterized anti-abortion extremists as “modern day patriots,” language which only serves to condone behavior that the FBI, a federal jury, and a district court had already agreed were threats of violence. Our research shows that when the Supreme Court refuses to curtail these terrorist activities, (Bray v. Alexandria), violence at clinics escalated.
“In fighting terrorism, we must also combat domestic extremist groups in our own country. Just in the last two days, two appellate Circuit Courts have shown their zero tolerance for domestic terrorism,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “We are very pleased that the Ninth Circuit has agreed to rehear this case, and we expect that this en banc review panel will agree with the jury and reinstate the verdict.”
Led by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project, a group of reproductive rights groups including NARAL, the NARAL Foundation, California NARAL, Montana NARAL, Washington State NARAL, the National Abortion Federation, the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the National Organization for Women Foundation, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Women’s Health Foundation, Northwest Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and the Women’s Law Project filed an amicus brief urging that the full Court hear the case. Other amicus briefs were filed by the American Medical Association and 43 members of Congress.
The Feminist Majority Foundation is the largest feminist research and action organization in the country. Founded in 1987, the Feminist Majority Foundation spearheads projects to empower women in all sectors of society, including medicine, law enforcement, academia, politics, and the world wide web. The Feminist Majority Foundation is the sister organization to the Feminist Majority, a cutting edge, public policy organization dedicated to advancing women’s equality. For further information about the Feminist Majority and the Feminist Majority Foundation, visit www.feminist.org.###