NOW v. Scheidler Trial Set for March 2

by Kim Gandy,
Executive Vice President

NOW Foundation lawyers are feverishly preparing for trial in this landmark racketeering case against anti-abortion terrorism. After 11 years of costly litigation, including a unanimous decision in the United States Supreme Court, we finally have an end in sight.

We go into this trial with a wealth of evidence that the defendants Joe Scheidler, Randall Terry, Operation Rescue and others and their co-conspirators have been part of an enterprise that engaged in illegal activities designed to stop abortion through threats and violence directed at women, providers and clinics. Their organization, a coalition called the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN), was the framework for these actions.

Potential Triple Damages

Winning this case has the potential to stop the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement not only by obtaining an injunction against their activities, but also by hitting them where it really counts. When we win, the defendants will be liable for triple money damages for all the harm that their enterprise has caused. Two clinic plaintiffs, both owned by Susan Hill, are representing the class of all women's health centers in the country where abortions are performed many of which have fallen victim to these violent tactics.

NOW is also a plaintiff. We represent our own members in the case, and in 1997 we were certified as the class-action plaintiff on behalf of all non-member women "whose rights to the services of women's health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed have been or will be interfered with by defendant's unlawful activities." The plaintiffs are represented by NOW Foundation, through lead counsel Fay Clayton, as part of the Foundation's "Stop the Rescue Racket" litigation project.

Strong Judgment, Trial Date Set

Last year a series of motions by Randall Terry and Operation Rescue delayed our trial, but the wait was worth it. In September we received a strongly worded decision from United States District Judge David Coar, finding in our favor that (1) PLAN is an "enterprise" within the meaning of the racketeering law, and (2) Terry conducted or participated in conducting PLAN, and played an active role. Judge Coar further found that we had provided "overwhelming evidence" of defendants violations of the federal Hobbs Act, a requirement for proving our racketeering case.

In early November we were notified of the March trial date giving us only four months to complete our final, critical preparations. Clayton, who made our winning argument in the Supreme Court, is moving full steam ahead with final trial plans preparing exhibits, courtroom graphics, jury research and the myriad details needed to try a case of this magnitude.

NOW members have been exceedingly generous in supporting this case over the years, and several extraordinary individuals have organized financial support from other quarters. We are very grateful for your help, but we are now at the most crucial juncture if we are to stop these dangerous terrorists.

If you would like to support the trial of this case (we expect it to last at least two weeks) with a tax-deductible donation, please send it to the NOW Foundation, 733 15th Street NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005. You may also contribute on-line at via secured credit card transaction.

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