Very big legal news today. The
U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 8-0 has overturned the Seventh Circuit on appeal in the combined cases of Scheidler v NOW (National Organization of Women) and Operation Rescue v NOW.
The court's decision overturns a $250,000 damages award that the National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics had won from an Illinois federal jury, as well as a nationwide ban imposed on the protests by a federal judge.
In a Washington Post story, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice says, "The decision removes a cloud that has been hanging over the pro-life movement for 15 years. The ruling clearly shuts the door on using RICO against the pro-life movement."
NOW originally filed RICO-based complaints against Scheidler and Operation Rescue to combat their aggressive clinic-blockading efforts that started in the mid to late 80s. For those who are too young to remember, Operation Rescue staged events where hundreds of pro-life activists would join together in human chains in front of abortion clinics so that, in some cases, clinics were unable to open.
Whether these events have become legal as a result of the Supreme Court ruling is doubtful, however, since Congress passed a separate law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) in 1994. FACE makes aggressive clinic blockades a federal offense.