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Case

Scheidler v. National Organization for Women

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • The freedom to peacefully assemble and protest
  • The protection of the rights of conservative and pro-life organizations from government discrimination and interference

Summary

Congress passed The Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970 to create hefty criminal penalties and allow lawsuits against conspirators in organized crime rings. However, The National Organization for Women (NOW) attempted to use RICO against a pro-life group that coordinated protests at abortion clinics. NOW claimed that the pro-life advocates were involved in a nationwide “conspiracy” to close abortion clinics.

The district court sided with NOW, finding the protesters guilty of violating RICO and ordering them to pay massive fines and penalties. The appellate court affirmed.  But after more than eighteen years of litigation and two separate arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the judgments and fines were overturned and the Court clarified that RICO does not apply to the activities of pro-life advocates challenging abortion activities. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding to support the legal team defending the pro-life advocates and supported the amici effort.

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