Injunction Issued Against Pro-Life Groups said of "No Consequence

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNS) - A decision handed down by a U.S. District Judge in Chicago regarding abortion protests "is of no consequence" to the pro-life movement one advocate declared, while the National Organization of Women (NOW) hails it as a "landmark" decision.

Judge David Coar found for the plaintiff in the class action lawsuit NOW vs. Scheidler, et al.

The 35 page decision included a nationwide permanent injunction prohibits blocking, obstructing, or impeding women trying to gain access to abortion clinics, but protects the right to hold sidewalk counseling, picket, give speeches, hand out literature, and pray on public property.

The decision stated that unknown "persons associated with" pro-life groups had undertaken "numerous, repeated acts of racketeering," by blocking access to clinics.

"The things he (Coar) told us we can't do we haven't been doing for years anyway," Joe Scheidler, director of the Pro-Life Action League (PLAL), and one of the named defendants in the lawsuit, said in an interview with CNSnews.com. "The injunction is of no consequence that I can see unless they start interpreting broadly."

Scheidler said that since NOW filed the lawsuit, 13 years ago, protest tactics have evolved and become much more effective. Prayer vigils, sidewalk counseling, picture distribution, and conversation have replaced sit-down strikes and blocking clinic doors.

"We talked 35 women out of having abortions one time by praying with them as opposed to a few with the blockades. They approach us now, because we've made ourselves more approachable," said Scheidler.

"The judge was so fearful of violating the first amendment that he allowed us to do the things that were most effective anyway," Scheidler said.

The Pro-Life Action League said it will appeal the decision, though, because of its many "errors of fact." Scheidler remarked that it read "almost like a novel," and was filled with "things that just didn't happen." According to Scheidler, members of PLAL are confident they will win the appeal.

Judge Coar tripled the damage payment a jury awarded the two clinics that originally filed the suit, to compensate for "extra security measures" they had to take due to Pro-Life protests. The total payment comes to around $350,000, and PLAL hopes that will be struck down in the appeals process.

NOW said it did not have a spokesperson available for comment but in a press release sent to CNSNews.com applauded the decision and its national jurisdiction. According to the release, NOW lobbyists had previously applied for local injunctions against what it terms "Anti-Abortion Terrorists" but said this is the first such nationwide action, "ensuring access (to clinics) for women across the country."