NOTE: More on the Supreme Court Victory is available in the list of links at the bottom of this page.
United States Supreme Court under guard at the culmination of 2003 March for Life on January 22.
by Eric J. Scheidler
On Wednesday 26 February, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory for pro-life activism, deciding 8-1 that the RICO statute was improperly used against the League’s Joe Scheidler and other pro-life activists in the case brought against them by the National Organization for Women.
“The news is even better than I expected,” said Scheidler in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Scheidler v. NOW RICO case. “We were always convinced that the Racketeering law had been misused against pro-life activists. The Court ruling with such a significant majority is an affirmation for us that our system ultimately works. The First Amendment is still in force!”
Millions of Prayers Answered
The Supreme Court’s decision decision is a major victory for the pro-life movement, and a major testament to the power of prayer. Joe and Ann Scheidler and all of us at the Pro-Life Action League extend our deepest thanks‘s to the many thousands of supporters around the world who have prayed for this victory over the past 17 years, and especially in the months leading up to today’s decision. We remember all of you in our morning prayers each day.
The Contemplation of Justice by sculptor James Earle Fraser, left of the Supreme Court main steps
Congratulations have been pouring into the League offices by phone, e-mail and fax since this morning’s announcement. Around the country and the world pro-life activists are sharing in this tremenous victory.
A Final End to a Seventeen Year Case
The Supreme Court’s decision ends the 17-year odyessy of NOW v Scheidler. While we were optimistic after the oral arguments in December, few dared to hope we would be handed such a decisive victory.
Lead counsel Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center thought it more likely the high would send the case back for retrial. But even that was uncertain.
Guardian or Authority of Law by sculptor James Earle Fraser, right of the Supreme Court main steps
The NOW v Scheidler started back in 1986 when the National Organization for Women first tried to use interstate commerce laws to stop abortion protests. The suit was eventually transformed into a RICO case and allowed to go to trial as such by the Supreme Court in 1994.
The 1998 Federal District Court trial ended in a jury finding that Joe Scheidler and other defendants were guilty of racketeering for their pro-life activities. Judge David Coar imposed an injunction and a quarter-million dollar judgement against the defendants.
Scheidler’s appeal eventually reached the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in December of last year.
Turning Victory into Action
Such a complete victory in answer to so many prayers is a tremendous encouragement to our peaceful pro-life activism. NOW‘s long effort to thwart our pro-life work has never stopped us from saving babies and helping women, but now we are prepared to redouble those efforts.
Look for news of our victory celebration here on the League website — or sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to learn about all our plans.
Thanks again to all those who prayed for this victory — your prayers have been answered!
Links and Related Pages
- Read the Supreme Court’s Decision [PDF]
- Read Joe Scheidler’s Hotline on the day of the decision (also in French and Spanish)
- Read Joe’s letter, “Dear Fellow Former Racketeers”
- Victory Day: 8-1 Decision Ends NOW v. Scheidler — Ann Scheidler’s article from the April 2003 Action News
- The Significance of NOW v. Scheidler — Lead counsel Tom Brejcha’s article from the April 2003 Action News
- Editorials and Press Statements Praise the 8-1 Supreme Court Decision — Round-up from the April 2003 Action News
- Americans United for Life Press Release in response to the Supreme Court Decision
- Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments — article from the December 2002 Action News