I think we have to face this issue. Is it a protected protest or an bona fide attempt to coerce and otherwise prevent a person from exercising their individual civil rights? Clinics have been bombed, abortion providers are harassed and one was murdered.
Last year, Dr. Stacy De-Lin told me about the time an antiabortion protester followed her down an isolated Manhattan street as she left work at Planned Parenthood one snowy evening, after he saw her duck out at lunchtime and come back to the clinic with groceries. He concluded that she must be an abortion provider, which she is — and so he stuck around for the afternoon, then trailed her in a thwarted attempt at intimidation. De-Lin turned around and asked what the hell he was doing, and he turned and walked away.
De-Lin’s experience might seem mild in the context of the threats posed to other abortion providers across the country. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a well-known provider who specialized in late-term abortions, was murdered at his church in Kansas; eleven years before that, a sniper killed Dr. Barnett Slepian while he was making soup in his kitchen. No, a stranger following you down the street after work isn’t the same as being shot in your own home or house of worship. But tell me this: How often do you leave your office and assume that there’s someone outside waiting, who might want to follow you and cause you harm? How many times have you been shadowed on your daily commute, because of where you work or what you do?
Dealing with threats to personal safety has effectively become part of the job for abortion providers across the country, whether they live in New York City or rural Kansas. It’s what I’ve found speaking with providers myself, but David Cohen and Krysten Connon, two Philadelphia-based attorneys, know even better than I do: They just wrote the book on antiabortion terrorism.
For a historical perspective, there was a time when anti-racketeering laws were used against abortion protestors
Use of the “RICO LAW” against anti-abortion groups It went to the Supreme Court:
On 2003-FEB-26, the U.S. Supreme Court voted in an unusual 8:1 split that RICO cannot be used against pro-life clinic protesters. The ruling released Joseph Scheidler of Operation Rescue and others from having to pay $258,000 in judgments. A national injunction which prevented the groups from interfering with abortion clinics was cancelled. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority: “…even when their [pro-lifers] acts of interference and disruption achieved their ultimate goal of ‘shutting down’ a clinic that performed abortions, such acts did not constitute extortion.”