Skip to content

It’s no racket: High court says pro-life advocates not subject to racketeering law

U.S. Supreme Court says federal law against organized crime does not apply to pro-life advocates

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that a federal law passed by Congress to combat organized crime and racketeering does not apply to pro-life advocates who protested outside of abortion clinics.  The Alliance Defense Fund provided funding for the case over the last eight years and supported friend-of-the-court briefs in defense of the pro-life advocates involved in the case.

“The court’s decision today affirms that Christians and others who believe in the pro-life cause cannot have their free speech silenced by the misapplication of federal law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.

“Trying to characterize those who believe in the pro-life cause as members of organized crime was a stretch from the start,” McCaleb explained.  “The court today appropriately put an end to that ridiculous claim by reaffirming the obvious intent of the federal law in question:  that it applies to violence used to further robbery or extortion, not the free speech of pro-life advocates.”

In 1989, abortionists filed a complaint against various pro-life advocates, asserting that the pro-life protests violated federal laws, including the Hobbs Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.  The pro-life advocates asserted that the racketeering laws were never meant to apply--and did not apply--to their free speech activity.

In 2003, the Supreme Court agreed; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit suggested on remand that other acts of the pro-life advocates may have constituted a violation of the law.  Today, the Supreme Court again rejected the misapplication of the law, stating that the intent of Congress was only to address physical violence that furthered robbery or extortion.

“This unanimous ruling of the court is a victory for all those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights without fear,” McCaleb said.  “ADF is pleased to have been a part of supporting the legal efforts that led to today’s outcome and to ensure that the pro-life message of hope is not suppressed.”

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.