Magazine article The Human Life Review

The RICO Outrage: Are "Pro-Lifers" Really Mafia Mobsters?

Magazine article The Human Life Review

The RICO Outrage: Are "Pro-Lifers" Really Mafia Mobsters?

Article excerpt

This past April, a federal jury in Chicago convicted several anti-abortion activists and their organizations of extortion (including the intent to incite violence) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law drafted in 1970 to combat the activities of organized crime. The suit (NOW v. Scheidler) was originated 12 years ago by the National Organization for Women against, among others, Joe Scheidler, the Executive Director of the Pro-Life Action League.

We have known Mr. Scheidler for years; he is a giant in the anti-abortion movement and an activist committed to using only peaceful means of protest. NOW's "victory" is a great injustice to him and a staggering blow to the First Amendment rights of all Americans, as the writers in our following special section agree.

First to discuss the RICO case and its implications is John Leo, who explains how RICO allowed the "mostly low-level offenses" of the anti-abortion protestors to be "lumped together and seen as a nationwide conspiracy to intimidate abortion doctors and patients," which should have had the ACLU up in arms. We then go to G. Robert Blakey, the Notre Dame law professor who actually wrote RICO: he says it is a "legal outrage" that the RICO law is being used as "a weapon of terror" against civil protest, and cautions "Those who love the First Amendment ought not rest so easily at night in light of what NOW has so wrongly wrought."

Dennis Byrne is a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times; he has written a sort of backdrop piece for us, describing Chicago as the once proud site of a long line of social protests (remember when free speech advocates even defended the right of the Nazis to march in surburban Skokie? …

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