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National NOW Times >> Fall 2002 >> Article

NOW to Argue Clinic Terror Case at Supreme Court

by Mindy Davis and Joy Nadler, Communications Interns

On Dec. 4, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in what should be the final round of the 16-year long class-action lawsuit NOW v. Scheidler. Since 1986, when anti-abortion violence and threats escalated at clinics, NOW has pursued this lawsuit as part of a multi-tactical strategy to protect women's constitutional right to abortion.

If NOW wins, and the Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling, Joe Scheidler and his network of anti-abortion thugs will finally be held financially responsible for the damage and harm they have caused at abortion clinics. Clinic blockades and invasions dwindled in the face of NOW's injunction, granted in October 1999.

"This case is about the use of fear, force and violence to bar women from medical facilities," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Don't believe the anti-abortion forces when they say we're after their free speech rights. NOW has a long history of using peaceful protest to deliver our message. Over the last 35 years, who has organized more demonstrations—large and small—than NOW?"

Two separate courts found that the protest used by these organizations was not peaceful but violent, and thus not protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Testimony at trial brought to light concerted actions designed to scare women away from seeking abortion services and threaten doctors into closing their doors permanently. One woman who was trying to enter a clinic—not for abortion but for post-operative care following cancer surgery—was beaten with a sign by protestors. The attack caused her sutures to rupture and she passed out. One clinic administrator was viciously choked by protestors, leaving serious bruises on her neck.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear First Amendment challenges by the defendants, and will review the case on two technical issues only. Both the federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals have sided with NOW on these two points.

For more information, see a complete NOW v. Scheidler timeline.

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