Supreme Court Backs Abortion Protesters
The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to abortion clinics in a two-decade-old legal fight over abortion protests, ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations.
Anti-abortion groups brought the appeal after the 7th Circuit had asked a trial judge to determine whether a nationwide injunction could be supported by charges that protesters had made threats of violence absent a connection with robbery or extortion
The 8-0 decision ends a case that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had kept alive despite a 2003 decision by the high court that lifted a nationwide injunction on anti-abortion groups led by Joseph Scheidler and others.
Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress did not intend to create "a freestanding physical violence offense" in the federal extortion law known as the Hobbs Act.Social activists and the AFL-CIO had sided with anti-abortion groups in arguing that similar lawsuits and injunctions could be used to thwart their efforts to change public policy or agitate for better wages and working conditions.