Supreme Court Rules Against NOW, Clinics in Anti-Abortion Violence Case

The Supreme Court today issued an 8-0 decision in two related cases first brought by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and two clinics of the National Women’s Health Organization on behalf of virtually all clinics and all women two decades ago. The Supreme Court’s decision in Scheidler, et al., v. NOW, et al. and Operation Rescue v. NOW, et al. lifted a nationwide injunction protecting virtually all women’s health clinics in the nation.

“I initiated this case almost 20 years ago as the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to stop the reign of terror perpetrated by anti-abortion extremists at clinics across the country. I believe that this lawsuit and its resulting nationwide injunction significantly contributed to reducing the level of violence at clinics. I only hope that the loss of the injunction does not embolden anti-abortion extremists to escalate domestic terrorism towards women’s reproductive health clinics,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

“Anti-abortion extremists, however, should not look at this as a great legal victory. State, local, and federal laws are now in place, such as the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, that have helped to dramatically reduce the level of violence against clinics. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that violence will not be tolerated at our nation’s clinics and that domestic terrorists will be arrested and prosecuted,” Smeal continued. The Feminist Majority, along with the National Organization for Women, helped to draft the FACE Act, which passed in 1994.

“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,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “We will not let that happen. É[W]e will use the [FACE Act] to its fullest extent in pursuing those who would use violent means to prevent women from making their own reproductive decisions.”

“We did all we could over the years to reduce violence at clinics. We used every legal tool available. Pursuing this case did reduce violence at clinics, and we cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to take this decision as a signal to once again increase violent activity aimed at clinics and clinic staff,” said Susan Hill, president of the National Women’s Health Organization, the owner of the two named clinics in the lawsuit.

LEARN MORE Read a Ms. magazine article on the NOW v. Scheidler case, “Terror in the Name of the Lord”

LEARN MORE Read Eleanor Smeal’s statement on the day the case was argued, November 30, 2005

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Feminist Majority Foundation; Supreme Court decision 2/28/06; NOW release 2/28/06

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