Today, in Chicago, Illinois, Federal Court Judge David Coar took the bold step of issuing a nationwide injunction to protect women’s health clinics from harassment, intimidation and anti-abortion violence. This ruling stems from the NOW v. Scheidler case which was brought by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Women’s Health Organization against Operation Rescue, Pro-Life Action League, and other anti-abortion extremists.
Eleanor Smeal commented on the significance of today’s decision: “Thirteen years ago, as president of the National Organization for Women, I initiated a lawsuit which has finally resulted in a first-ever nationwide, permanent, federal court injunction against Operation Rescue, the Pro-Life Action League (PLAN) and all individuals acting in concert with them from interfering with the right of a woman to secure an abortion or a clinic to provide abortions. I believed then, and do now, that Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Action League acted in concert with extremists nationwide and violated the rights of women and the rights of clinics-and now finally, 13 years later a federal court has recognized this fact, by giving law enforcement more power and more clout to protect clinics. Finally, a federal court has found that the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (civil “RICO”) and operated an unlawful enterprise.”
The importance of this federal injunction issued today is that it provides more clout to federal law enforcement, state law enforcement and local law enforcement to close this nationwide enterprise. With this opinion, a federal court is shutting down – for the first time – a unlawful enterprise operating nationwide to deny women abortion services. Until now, it has been case by case, jurisdiction by jurisdiction – this is now an order that protects women’s health clinics nation wide. This groundbreaking injunction differs from the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act (FACE) and provides another avenue for women and clinics to pursue justice. Under FACE they must go to the U.S. Attorney in their jurisdiction who report to the U.S. Attorney General. If neither is interested in pursuing the case, the only option that remains federally for the women, or the clinic, is to take an independent civil action.
Under this nationwide injunction they can go to law enforcement and then to the federal court where the violation occurred or this court which is already knowledgeable about anti-abortion violence, no matter who is the U.S. Attorney General or U.S. Attorney. The Feminist Majority Foundation provided research assistance for this historic case and runs the largest nationwide clinic defense program which includes: providing security services, legal assistance, direct assistance to embattled clinics, as well as aiding communities in countering anti-abortion violence. Sara Love, Legal Defense Director for the Feminist Majority Foundation, was an attorney in the Chicago law firm Robinson, Curley and Clayton which litigated the NOW v. Scheidler for NOW. The FMF’s Clinic Defense Project annually issues the most comprehensive study of clinic violence. In 1998, some 22% of all abortion clinics in the US suffered from severe clinic violence.###