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Major pro-life court victory. (Insider Report).

In an 8-1 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26th handed down a surprising decision in favor of pro-life activists. The ruling concludes a 17-year court battle through which radical pro-abortion forces misused federal laws against racketeering to silence and restrict their pro-life opponents. The legal conflict began in 1986 when the National Organization for Women (NOW) launched a suit against Joseph Scheidler, head of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, and other pro-life activists. The suit, NOW v. Scheidler, first attempted to use interstate commerce laws to stop abortion protests, but later adopted the tactic of using the federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute against pro-lifers.

The RICO Act, enacted in 1970 to target organized crime, was not intended as a vehicle to restrict political activity or expression. However, the jury in a 1998 Federal District Court trial found Mr. Scheidler and other defendants guilty of racketeering for their pro-life activities. Judge David Coar imposed an injunction and a quarter-million dollar judgment against the defendants. Scheidler's appeal of that verdict eventually reached the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in December of last year. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said the pro-life activities in the case did not qualify as extortion, as defined in the RICO statute. The lone court dissenter, Justice John Paul Stevens, claimed that the chief beneficiaries of this ruling would be "the class of professional criminals whose conduct persuaded Congress that the public needed federal protection from extortion."

This court decision is a victory not only for Mr. Scheidler and other pro-life activists, but for all who would preserve the Constitution's protections for free speech and political activity. If the earlier trial verdict had been allowed to stand, a dangerous precedent would have been established opening the door to widespread application of RICO against all politically incorrect speech and action.
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Title Annotation:NOW v. Scheidler, 17-year court battle concluded
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 24, 2003
Words:311
Previous Article:Terrorist arrests long overdue. (Insider Report).
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