Supremes on abortion protestors
This ruling is a mixed bag, because it prevents Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) laws from being used to stop abortion protestors from congregating and harassing clients outside clinics. The RICO legal strategy was initially and successfully devised by NOW.
However, social activists and the AFL-CIO (who sided with the abortion demonstrators) charged that RICO could be used to quash efforts to change public policy or work for change in wages and working conditions. Alito did not participate in this decision.
The Supreme Court dealt a setback today to abortion clinics in a two-decade-old legal fight over anti-abortion protests, ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations.
The 8-0 decision ends a case that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had kept alive despite a 2003 ruling by the high court that lifted a nationwide injunction on anti-abortion groups led by Joseph Scheidler and others.
Anti-abortion groups brought the appeal after the appellate court sought to determine whether the injunction could be supported by charges that protesters had made threats of violence.
In today’s ruling, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress did not intend to create “a freestanding physical violence offense” in the federal extortion law known as the Hobbs Act.