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Wash. Memo Alan Guttmacher Inst. 1993; (20): 1-2.


(Copyright © 1993, Alan Guttmacher Institute)






Abortion rights groups pursue multiple avenues for redress against abortion protesters at clinics around the US. The Supreme Court opinion in January 1993 in Bray vs. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic states that the Ku Klux Klan Act may not be used to protect clinics. A federal appeals court opinion states that a provision of the act does provide some protection for clinics. Both the Senate and House of Representatives passed bills making damage to an abortion clinic or intimidation of patients and staff a federal crime. The passage of this legislation into law is expected in early 1994. The case of NOW (the National Organization for Women) vs. Scheidler, initiated in 1986, is not expected to be ruled on until the summer of 1994. Depending upon the ruling, NOW will file another suit in a lower court referring to RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations and a pattern of criminal activity. NOW's lawyer Fay Clayton puts forth the argument that clinic violence is a "nationwide campaign of terror" designed to halt the practice of abortion and is illegal under RICO. Robert Blakely, one of the original authors of RICO, represents Operation Rescue and the ProLife Action League. RICO was used in the past against mobsters, stock manipulators, and pornographers. Lower courts are inconsistent in the interpretation of whether the economic motive is essential for enforcement of RICO. RICO refers to "affairs" of an "enterprise" engaging in two or more incidents of criminal activity such as extortion, arson, and kidnapping. The Supreme Court criticized Congress for vague wording in the law and for not fulfilling its responsibility to refine the language. Congress has, since 1970, tried to rewrite the law without success. The US Solicitor General, attorney Miguel Estrada, argued that the economic motive requirement limits the role Congress intended for RICO. The administration may use RICO to prosecute terrorists in the World Trade Center bombing and other political and religious groups committing criminal acts.

Language: en


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