The United States Supreme Court began its new term last month in much the same way it ended the previous term in June: with abortion and church/state cases high on the agenda. During its opening week, the high court reheard arguments in a case about the tactics of Operation Rescue and announced it was adding two more religion cases to the one already on the new schedule. In all the cases, observers say the Court is more likely to clarify earlier rulings than to move in sweeping new directions.

Can Operation Rescue Rescue?

On October 6, the justices heard arguments for the second time about whether Operation Rescue—style blockades at abortion clinics are discrimination against women as a class. In Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, several Northern Virginia abortion clinics argued that it is illegal for rescuers to block women from entering abortion clinics. They based their arguments on the Civil Rights Act of 1871, known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which made it illegal for Klansmen to block blacks from free access to travel from one state to another.

That Reconstruction-era law protects any “person or class of persons” against conspiracies to keep them from exercising their constitutional rights.

“Women are discriminated against as a class here because they are denied a constitutional right that only the class of women has,” argued Deborah Ellis of the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Legal Defense Fund.

However, Operation Rescue attorney Jay Sekulow argued that his clients’ activities in front of the clinics were motivated by their opposition to abortion and not by any malice toward women. “The activities of Operation Rescue are aimed at all involved in the process of abortion, from the doctors to the staff to those ...

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