Supreme Court unanimously okays use of RICO to combat antiabortion violence.

  • Published 1994 in Washington memo


The recent US Supreme Court decision that abortion clinics can use a federal antiracketeering law to sue anti-abortion picketers and blockaders provides the abortion rights movement with an important tool for combating escalating violence. The January 24, 1994, decision was issued only 6 weeks after the National Organization for Women vs. Scheidler case was argued. The case stated that groups such as Operation Rescue had conspired to conduct a "nationwide campaign of terror" aimed at depriving women of the right to abortion and forcing abortion clinics to close down, whether through property damage or intimidation of staff and patients. The 1970 Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) provides triple monetary damages and prison sentences of up to 20 years for those who engage in 2 or more incidents of extortion, arson, and kidnapping. The Court is scheduled to review a Florida case, Madsen vs Women's Health Center, and the outcome should clarify the relationship between RICO and First Amendment interests. In this case, a federal appeals court had declared an order by a state judge that prohibited anti-abortion protesters from coming within 300 feet of the abortion clinic or the homes of clinic personnel to be an unconstitutional restriction on free speech in a public form.

Cite this paper

@article{1994SupremeCU, title={Supreme Court unanimously okays use of RICO to combat antiabortion violence.}, author={}, journal={Washington memo}, year={1994}, volume={3}, pages={1-2} }