Supreme Court: Mob Laws Can’t Be Used Against Abortion Protesters

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 28, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court: Mob Laws Can’t Be Used Against Abortion Protesters Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 28, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The Supreme Court has ruled a second time that federal racketeering laws used against mob bosses can’t be used against pro-life advocates who protest abortions. The court upheld its previous ruling that state laws are sufficient to prosecute any minor violations such as trespassing.

Pro-life groups brought their case back to the Supreme Court after an appeals court instructed a local judge to determine if a national ban should be put in place against demonstrations because of alleged threats of violence.

The appeals court kept the case alive despite a high court decision in favor of the protesters. The 8-0 decision today ends the case, which covered more than two decades.

In his opinion for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress was not looking to create a "freestanding physical violence offense" in the Hobbs Act, which covers racketeering.

The lawsuit pit the Pro-Life Action League against the pro-abortion National Organization of Women, which claims the organization participated in illegal and violent protests against abortion businesses. NOW said the group should be prosecuted under federal RICO statutes that are used to target organized crime.

"After our second trip here, the Court concluded that ‘the jury’s finding of a RICO violation must be reversed,’" Scheidler explained. In the previous trip to the high court, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the 8-1 court that the RICO statutes should not be used.

In a statement obtained by, Eleanor Smeal, former president of NOW when the case was filed and now head of the Feminist Majority Foundation, claimed the case related to "stopping illegal violence directed against women’s health clinics, abortion providers and their patients."

The case was originally filed in 1986 and the RICO charges were added in 1989 in an attempt to bankrupt Scheidler’s group.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society and its Chief Counsel, Thomas Breach, have represented Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League throughout the twenty-year history of the case. However, they gave the Bush administration half of their allotted oral argument time in November at the hearings because the administration supported the pro-life protesters.

The case took some odd twists and turns as even labor unions and other activists sided with the pro-life advocates saying the Hobbs Act was being misapplied by pro-abortion groups seeking to charge the protesters under it.