After 28 years, the National Organization for Women has lost in their bid to silence pro-life organizer Joseph Scheidler. Additionally, a panel of federal judges has ruled that NOW must pay court costs of $63,391.45 for Scheidler and his co-defendants for the court battle which began in 1986.
The Washington Times reported that the judges called the costs “modest,” amounting to “less than $2,300 per year of litigation.”
“At last it is over,” said the panel. Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the case, “This suit began 28 years ago and has been to the Supreme Court three times.”
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I remember when I first met Joe Scheidler. A strapping man in a trenchcoat and fedora, Joe filled the room at the radio station where I worked in the late ’80s. He was in town from Chicago–speaking and probably, if memory serves me, joining a protest at a local abortion clinic.
With his wife Ann, Joe was an early voice in opposition to Roe v. Wade, the infamous Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. He has been called the “Father of Pro-Life Activism”, serving as national director of the Pro-Life Action League, and has been at the forefront of the pro-life movement–speaking, protesting, and producing books and videos including a training film for sidewalk counselors.
Scheidler has been the target of numerous attacks by abortion supporters. His home has been attacked, bricks thrown through his window during the night. Facing overwhelming legal costs for the lengthy defense, the Scheidlers had been forced to use their home as collateral to secure bond.
During the 28 years the case has bounced around in the legal system, with the Circuit Court’s decision being overturned three times by the Supreme Court, Joe’s familiar beard has turned grey.
But finally, it is over. LifeSiteNews explained the machinations of the case:
The labyrinthine case began as an anti-trust case in 1986, less than two years into Ronald Reagan’s second presidential term, when the National Organization for Women sued Illinois pro-life activist Joe Scheidler, as well as the Pro-Life Action League, John Ryan, the Pro-life Direct Action League, and Joan Andrews. (Andrews was later dropped from the list, and some defendants settled along the way.)
NOW alleged that sidewalk counselors were using violence or threats of violence by blocking the entrance to abortion facilities.
The original attorneys for NOW were Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), although the controversial left-wing legal group dropped out of the case in 1988.
The case broadened when Patricia Ireland took over, accusing Scheidler of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a statute intended to prosecute members of the Mafia. U.S. Supreme Court justices allowed the RICO Act to be used in a unanimous 1994 ruling.
More defendants were added, until NOW compiled a list of more than 100 “co-conspirators,” accusing sidewalk counselors of using violence or threats of violence to stop women from having abortions. They even deposed convicted murderer Paul Hill in an attempt to paint a picture of a vast conspiracy of pro-life vigilantism.
The story continues here.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society which had defended the plaintiffs, said in an April 30 statement:
“Today we celebrate a long-awaited, hopefully final victory for millions of pro-lifers here and around the country. The abortion plaintiffs had been claiming that the heroic leaders whom we defended were leaders of a vast nationwide conspiracy comprising as many as a million members, thereby putting a black cloud over pro-life efforts to advocate against abortion as if these efforts to save human lives were some horrific enterprise bent on ‘extortion’ and ‘racketeering.’ After nearly 28 years of litigating and three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, we are proud to declare that pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights to free speech and association are once again secure and protected by law. Banding together with fellow citizens to advocate for the sanctity of each and every human life – born and unborn, wanted or allegedly ‘unwanted’ – are precious rights of all American citizens.”