CHICAGO, October 3, 2001 ( – In a 3-0 ruling Tuesday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Federal District Court finding that pro-lifers were guilty of crimes under the racketeering law. However pro-life activists were undaunted by the ruling. “By now, we have grown accustomed to hostile rulings by the judiciary,” said Joseph M. Scheidler, National Director of the Pro-Life Action League.

The court found Scheidler, as well as defendants Andrew Scholberg, Timothy Murphy, the Pro-Life Action League and Operation Rescue guilty of violations of the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) which was crafted in 1969 for the purpose of crushing organized crime and illegal drug traffic. The National Organization for Women and abortionists in Milwaukee and Wilmington, Del., launched the suit against the defendants. It is cited as the NOW v Scheidler case.

Scheidler said the defendants will appeal the case to the Supreme Court if necessary. “Our next step will be an appeal to the full Court of Appeals-then, whatever they rule, we’ll probably end up in the Supreme Court,” said Scheidler.

“NOW may be rejoicing today,” said Scheidler, “but we know we are not racketeers, that the victory ultimately will be ours because we are doing what is right and true. The fact that abortion proponents have been hounding us in the courts for sixteen years is a tribute to our effectiveness in stopping abortion. We have no plans to slow down or cease our activities”

Interestingly, the case has pitted a usual supporter of the abortion industry against it. Animal rights activists, which normally ally themselves with the pro-abortion movement, condemned the RICO decisions since they can be used to squelch their free speech as well. “I don’t want to be compared to Operation Rescue, by any means, but the use of the RICO statute to target anything related to speech is a big mistake,” said Paul Goodwin of an animal rights activist group. “They made a fundamental mistake to use the RICO statute to shut down anti-abortion groups. You open the door to where anybody who doesn’t like a protest group can find some way of using it,” he said.

In fact, commentators on the NOW use of the RICO act point out that the abolitionist movement, suffragette movement, temperance movement, civil rights movement, anti-war movement and anti-nuclear movement, all took advantage of the Constitutional right to protest. Crimes were sometimes committed by individuals in pursuit of the goals of those movements but they were never accused of conspiracy. Had RICO been available in the early part of this century the leaders of these movements would have been subject to charges of conspiracy and extortion – a chilling effect on cherished American freedoms.

See related LifeSite coverage:

See the history of the case:

See the AP coverage of the Appeal ruling: