Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "The trouble with Tommy," May 4, 2002

Racketeers without a racket

SUPREME COURT | Justices to review verdict against abortion protests

Are pro-life protesters who block abortion clinics extortionists? The Supreme Court decided to answer that question last week when it agreed to review National Organization for Women vs. Scheidler, the 1998 case in which radical feminists successfully argued that pro-life protesters were guilty of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The 1998 trial followed a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that allowed use of federal racketeering laws against political protesters who lack an economic motive. Defendants included the Pro-Life Action League and Operation Rescue. NOW won a RICO judgment of $258,000 and a nationwide injunction against certain types of abortion clinic demonstrations. The pro-life defendants argue that protesters who blocked clinic entrances, chained themselves to clinic gurneys, and tried verbally to persuade abortion workers to give up their grisly trade were not guilty of extortion because they did not obtain any property. Federal law defines extortion as the taking of property through threats or violence. The defendants also argue that RICO lets the government seek injunctions, but not private groups such as NOW. A three-judge, U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Chicago affirmed the NOW vs. Scheidler verdict last October. Some on the left, such as activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, actor-activist Martin Sheen, and Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch, regard NOW vs. Scheidler as a threat to their own protest actions, and they've filed amicus briefs in support of the pro-life groups.

Abortion roadblock

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CONGRESS | House passes, Senate delays child custody bill

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is expected to add the Child Custody Protection Act to its warehouse of neglected House-passed legislation. The bill, which passed the House on April 17 by a vote of 260-161, would make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines for an abortion to circumvent parental consent laws. Twenty-seven states have such laws, but adults have routinely transported minors to other states for abortions. "Right now, parents in Charlotte must grant permission before the school nurse gives their child an aspirin, but parents can't prevent a stranger from taking their child out of school and up to Maryland for an abortion," said Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.).

Killer pills?

RU-486 | Two die after taking drug

Mifeprex, one half of the RU-486 abortion-inducing combination, may be killing more than unborn children. Danco Laboratories, the maker of Mifeprex, sent a letter informing doctors that six women have developed serious illnesses and two have died after taking the drug, although the letter cautioned that no causal relationship between the drug and the medical problems has been established. Three of the women suffered bleeding from ruptures of ectopic pregnancies, which are located in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus, and are not eliminated by RU-486. One of them died. Two others developed bacterial infections, and one of them died. The sixth woman had a heart attack three days after taking the drug. The Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486 in September 2000.

Texas (N)aggies

MEDIA | Try some reporting, Houston Chronicle

Maybe we published our "Christians-as-Taliban" special issue (May/June, 2002) one week early. The latest press attack on House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is a perfect example of the ignorance and bigotry that WORLD highlighted. Mr. DeLay, speaking to and responding to questions from a church group near Houston, listened to a parent's criticism of teaching at major Texas universities and request for advice. Mr. DeLay responded, "Don't send your kids to Baylor. And don't send your kids to A&M. There are still some Christian schools out there-good, solid schools. Now, they may be little, they may not be as prestigious as Stanford, but your kids will get a good, solid, godly education." You'd think a newspaper that emphasizes the need for diversity would welcome such a declaration. But the Houston Chronicle jumped all over Mr. DeLay in two loaded news articles and an editorial. "FANATIC," the editorial declared as it decried Mr. DeLay's "fanatical desire to transform American government into a theocracy." Down, boy! The Houston-area congressman was not saying that Baylor and Texas A&M should be closed down, or even that the number of their football scholarships should be reduced. He was emphasizing choice. Which, by the way, leads to a comment on the choice made by the Chronicle. The newspaper, not having thought the DeLay event important enough to warrant a reporter's presence, relied on a tape and story line given it by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Should a mighty newspaper be a lapdog spoon-fed by an interest group? What ever happened to pavement-pounding reporters?


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