Joseph Scheidler

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Joseph Scheidler
Born Joseph M. Scheidler
September 7, 1927 (1927-09-07) (age 89)

Joseph M. Scheidler (born September 7, 1927) is an American pro-life activist and the founder of the Pro-Life Action League. He is known for his work in front of abortion clinics to stop women from having abortions, and for teaching other people to work against legal abortion.[1] Scheidler was the chief defendant in the NOW v. Scheidler litigation, filed in a 1986. A Federal Court decided against him and in favor of the National Organization for Women in 1998. He was found guilty of interstate racketeering, assessed fines and sentenced to prison. This decision was unanimously overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2003, but NOW took the case under a slightly different issue before another lower Federal Court, and it was again decided against Scheidler. However, this was again brought to the Supreme Court which again unanimously decided in his favor in 2006. The Court granted him damages against NOW. Scheidler lives in Chicago with his wife Ann, and has seven children and numerous grandchildren, many of whom are involved in his organization.

NOW v. Scheidler[edit]

In 1986 the National Organization for Women (NOW) filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against a host of Pro-Life groups and individuals including the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) and Scheidler, among others. The suit was filed under the claim that Scheidler and the other defendants had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) through a conspiracy to prevent women from accessing abortion services through the threat of violence or the implied threat of violence.[2] The district court dismissed the case on the grounds that an organization without an academic motive (such as the Pro-Life Action League, a non-profit organization) could not be considered a "racketeering enterprise" under RICO.

However, the case was then brought to the Court of Appeals where it was determined that a non-profit organization could, in fact, be considered a racketeering enterprise. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1994, in a 9-0 vote in favor of NOW. This allowed the original case to move forward.[3] The decision did not make any statements about whether or not Scheidler and PLAN were guilty of the racketeering allegations, however. It simply stated that they could be tried under RICO.[2]

A trial began in 1998 to determine whether the allegations against Scheidler and PLAN were true, and if they were, in fact, violations of RICO and the Hobbs Act (this was added as a predicate). It was the role of NOW to prove that there had been a national effort by PLAN to prevent women from accessing abortion clinics through violence or the threat thereof. After NOW's testimonies, the jury decided unanimously that PLAN was guilty. The court awarded monetary compensation to NOW, and also ruled that PLAN was forbidden to interfere with NOW's right to provide abortion services.[2]

PLAN appealed to the seventh circuit under the claim that they had not violated the Hobbs Act. The act explicitly defines extortion as obtaining property, and PLAN argued that at no point had they taken property from NOW. This claim was rejected, and PLAN took it to the Supreme Court. The court voted 8-1 in favor of Scheidler and PLAN. It ruled that PLAN, while depriving abortion clinics of property, did not actually acquire anything, meaning PLAN did not commit extortion under the Hobbs Act.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scheidler, Joseph M. (1993). "Chapter 81: Violence: Why It Won't Work Closed: 99 Ways To Stop Abortion". Archived from the original on March 1, 2009. Retrieved March 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d [1] Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler". Retrieved 2015-12-12. 

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