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CHICAGO, Apr 20 (LSN) – In the civil suit between the National Organization for Women (NOW) and two abortion mills, a US federal jury decided today that Operation Rescue, the Pro-Life Action League,  and their leaders were guilty on 21 counts of extortion. The jury of two men and four women also awarded the two abortuaries $85,926 (US) for damage to their business over more than 15 years. Due to a contingency in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, under which the suit was filed, it is expected that the judge will triple that amount.  The decision could be crippling for the US pro-life movement since other abortuaries now can seek damages under a class action suit, if they can show in court that the defendants also harmed their businesses. Susan Hill, president of the company that owns the two abortion mills in Milwaukee and Wilmington, Del., said she expected hundreds of “clinics” to seek damages to follow suit.  NOW filed the class-action lawsuit against the pro-life groups in 1986. The case did not come to court until arguments about whether the RICO act could be used for such a purpose were settled.  Robert Blakey, the Notre Dame University law professor who was the chief architect of the racketeering statute, has said the act was intended only for use against organized crime and drug cartels. “This case is a nightmare for anybody who wants to picket,’’ Blakey said recently, adding that groups who do not profit financially from objecting to the activities of a business should not be penalized.  The main defendant, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Joseph Scheidler, told reporters that he would appeal the decision. Observers note that U.S. District Judge David Coar, who presided over the lawsuit, seemed prejudiced throughout the trial and in giving jurors their final instructions,  virtually ensuring they would return a guilty verdict. Coar told jurors that in order to find the defendants guilty under the racketeering charges, they had to find that the defendants, acting as part of the management within an organized group, committed two acts of extortion. Coar unfairly defined extortion as any use of threat or force to deprive a woman, patient, doctor, or staff person entry to a clinic, or similarly to prevent the clinic from doing business.  Scheidler courageously vowed to keep fighting the good fight, saying, “It’s not going to curtail our pro-life activities to save babies. I’m in this fight till the day I die.”

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