by Steven Ertelt
May 9, 2007
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — It’s taken 21 years and three trips to the Supreme Court for Joe Scheidler to get his name cleared in a case involving allegations that his abortion protests constituted organized racketeering. Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League and Operation Rescue were sued in 1986 by the pro-abortion National Organization of Women.
NOW claimed Scheidler’s organization participated in illegal and violent protests against abortion businesses and said the group should be prosecuted under federal RICO statutes that are used to target organized crime.
The Supreme Court ultimately rejected the argument and, on Tuesday, Federal Judge David Coar issued his final judgment in the case.
In a statement sent to LifeNews.com, Scheidler said he never gave up fighting to protect the lives of women and unborn children despite pro-abortion attempts to stop him.
"Throughout the twenty-one year battle, we never allowed the legal issues to interfere with our mission of saving lives," said Scheidler. "Our capable legal team, led by Thomas Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, handled the courts, while we remained on the front lines of the fight for life."
The lawsuit claimed the defendants had orchestrated and directed a nationwide protest movement using illegal methods outlawed by the federal antitrust, extortion and “RICO” (racketeering) laws.
The judgment is not only against NOW, but is also against “the members of NOW” and against “the members of the Certified Class of women” whom NOW also represented in the suit.
It includes women who are not NOW members, but might go to an abortion center anywhere in the United States as well as the abortion businesses themselves.
Thomas More’s Tom Brejcha told LifeNews.com that “The plaintiffs designed this case as a huge dragnet and they cast it far and wide as if to encompass the entire pro-life activist movement in America."
"This is not just federal RICO or antitrust claims, but also state and local trespass or harassment claims of all sorts. As NOW and the other plaintiffs have met a final defeat, the tables are turned against them," he explained.
In February 2003, a decisive majority voted 8-1 for the pro-life defendants, ruling that a RICO judgment and nationwide RICO injunction against the defendants and their “co-conspirators,” must be overturned.
Later, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals tried to breathe new life into the case, the Supreme Court intervened a third time, ruling last February, 2006, 8-0 that the case should end once and for all. In May of 2006 the Seventh Circuit sent the case back down to Judge Coar for dismissal.
"NOW and the abortion centers tried everything they could to stop us," Scheidler concluded, "but in the past twenty-one years, hundreds of abortion providers have quit, over a thousand abortion clinics have closed, numbers of abortions have dropped significantly and public opinion has shifted to pro-life."
The Bush administration participated int he case and told the high court to support Scheidler.