Catholic New York July 22, 1999
Judge Bars Some Activities at Abortion
Clinics, Allows Others
A federal judge in Illinois issued a nationwide injunction
against abortion protesters, prohibiting them from blocking, obstructing or
impeding women from entering abortion clinics, trespassing on clinic property or
threatening employees or clients of the clinics.
But U.S. District Judge David Coar's ruling, handed down July
16, also spelled out what activities are permissible, including peacefully
carrying picket signs, speaking to individuals approaching clinics and praying
or making speeches on public property in front of a clinic.
The ruling stems from a six-week trial that ended in April 1998 in which the
National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics sued the Chicago-based
Pro-Life Action League and other defendants, including league head Joseph
Scheidler, Operation Rescue, and activists Andrew Scholberg and Timothy Murphy.
The almost 13-year-old NOW suit charged that the defendants had created that
the defendants had created a climate that encouraged using violence to prevent
women from going into clinics to obtain an abortion. The basis of the suit was
the federal anti-racketeering statute known as RICO.
In an early phase of the lawsuit a jury had found defendants guilty of
interstate conspiracy to close abortion clinics by crossing state lines to
commit felonies, including threats of violence, and awarded the clinics more
than $86,000 in damages.
In the next phase, Coar heard oral testimony and accepted
written materials on a request to enjoin the defendants, and anybody else in the
country, from engaging in civil disobedience at an abortion clinic. The
injunction, covering a period of 12 years, is the outcome of that phase.
Coar also tripled the amount of money the jury awarded to the
plaintiff clinics last year.
A statement from Scheidler said the injunction "simply states
that we can't do what we don't do anyway and that we can do what we have always
His lawyer, Tom Brejcha, told CNS that he planned to move for
a stay of the judge's injunction, then ask that it be overturned. If that
failed, he said, he planned to appeal the ruling.
In a separate statement, Father Frank A. Pavone, a New York
priest who is national director of Priests for Life, said the injunction rightly
prohibits violence and threats of violence.
He said the ruling "actually vindicates what we do in the
pro-life movement," and thanked the judge "for making it crystal clear that we
have a perfect right to these activities." -CNS
Priests for Life in the News