NOW Suit Charges ‘Reign of Terror’ by Anti-Abortionists
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Organization for Women said today it has filed a lawsuit against three national anti-abotion leaders to stop what it called a nationwide conspiracy to close abortion clinics.
The class-action lawsuit, filed Monday in Wilmington, Del., claims the anti-abortion leaders violate federal antitrust laws by inciting their followers to try to drive abortion clinics out of business.
″We believe there is a reign of terror going on, a national conspiracy to close abortion facilities,″ NOW President Eleanor Cutri Smeal said at a news conference.
She said NOW hopes to stem the rising tide of violence against abortion clinics. The National Abortion Federation counted 224 acts of violence in 1985, including four bombings and 75 bomb threats.
The most recent bombing occurred late Monday night when a clinic in Wichita, Kan., was damaged. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The three defendants, whom Ms. Smeal called ″terrorists,″ are Joe Scheidler of Chicago, Joan Andrews of Newark, Del., and John Patrick Ryan of St. Louis. Also named in the suit are Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League and Ryan’s Pro-Life Direct Action League.
Scheidler, in a statement, said the NOW lawsuit ″is part of a pro-abortion conspiracy to harass the pro-life movement. It will not slow down our efforts. We will simply increase our activities until every unborn child regains his right to life.″
″It’s a witchhunt,″ Ryan said. ″It’s meant to intimidate us, to harass us, to tie us up in court. They admit they’ve not been able to stop us at the local level. I think that’s a tribute to the local activists all over the country. People are sick and tired of these abortionists killing babies in their communities.″
Ms. Andrews, who is in jail in Pensacola, Fla., awaiting trial later this month in connection with a violent anti-abortion demonstration there in March, said lawsuits won’t stop her.
″What they would have to do is put us in jail for the rest of our lives or until the killing stops,″ she said.
Ms. Smeal said: ″These three are national leaders. We know these organizations are spearheading the day-in, day-out harassment campaign.″
The lawsuit seeks a federal court injunction to prevent the three from ″driving women’s health centers that perform abortions out of business through a pattern of concerted, unlawful activity.′
The Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Ala., is representing NOW and two clinics - the Pensacola Ladies Center and the Delaware Women’s Health Organization - in the lawsuit.
The suit was filed in Delaware because it is ″the spot Mr. Scheidler has declared will be the first state to be free of abortions,″ attorney Richard Cohen said.