High Court Resumes Abortion Blockade Debate

o High Court Resumes Abortion Blockade Debate
  L. A. Times, 07/October/1992, David G. Savage, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - Lawyers for the Bush Administration and the anti-
abortion group Operation Rescue (sic) urged the Supreme
court on Tuesday to declare that federal judges have no power
to break-up human blockages of abortion clinics.

Justice department attorney John Roberts Jr. argued that although
the administration does not defend the tactics of Operation
Rescue (sic) and other anti-abortion groups that block
access to clinics, the issue should be left to the state courts
to decide.

At issue is whether a post-civil war measure known as the Ku
Klux Klan Act can be applied to the modern-day fight over
abortion [rights.] In recent years, federal judged across the
nation have invoked the 1871 law to order a halt to clinic

However, administration lawyers said that this law covers only
instances of a "discriminatory animus" against a distinct group
of people, such as racial attacks on blacks.

Operation Rescue's (sic) members "are perfectly non-discriminatory
in their opposition to abortion," Roberts told the court. "They
are opposed to abortion, not women."

But women's rights layers argues that the 1871 law gave judges
broad power to cope with "mob violence," even if subsequent
Supreme Court rulings narrowed its application to instances of
discrimination. The law authorizes judged to intervene "if two or
more persons conspire" to use force to prevent others from
exercising "any right or privilege" under the U. S. constitution.

Deborah Ellis of the NOW Legal Defense Fund said that Operation
Rescue (sic) is engaged in "a nationwide systematic conspiracy"
to prevent women from exercising their right to choose abortion.

Judged in Atlanta, New York, Wichita, Kan., and Alexandria, Va.,
have used the 1871 law against Operation Rescue (sic). It is the
only federal statute that gives U. S. judged the power to issue
injunctions in such disputes.

The justices are apparently closely split on the issue. The case
(Bray vs. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 90-985) was first
argued last October, before Justice Clarence Thomas took his seat.
In May, the court issues a brief announcement saying that it wanted
to hear a second round of arguments, raising a string possibility
that Thomas will hold the deciding vote. However, he asked no
questions Tuesday.

Outside the court, Operation Rescue (sic) founder Randall Terry
praised the administration's stand and say that HIS FOLLOWERS would
mobilize to ensure president Bush's re-election. "George Bush has
been a faithful ally of the [anti-choice] movement and Operation
Rescue (sic)," Terry said. "To vote for Bill Clinton is to sin
against god."

But Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for
Women, condemned the administration for backing the militant
protesters. "Today, George Bush stands on the side of the vigilante
mob," she said.