In the largest judgment ever levied against anti-abortion activism, a federal jury in Oregon in February assessed $109 million in damages against two pro-life organizations and a dozen individuals associated with the Nuremberg Files site on the Internet's World Wide Web.
Planned Parenthood, All Women's Health Services, and four abortionists had filed a $200 million civil lawsuit in Portland, Oregon, against the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), Advocates for Life Ministries, and a dozen individuals in the first case of its kind. The three-week trial focused on the content of an Internet Web site and two "wanted"-style posters.
Defendant Joseph Foreman, the Presbyterian minister who helped draft ACLA's constitution, said, "There's been only one death threat in this entire case and that's the threat to the First Amendment."
Attorney Christopher A. Ferrara of the American Catholic Lawyers Association said, "If these posters are threatening, then virtually any document which criticizes an abortionist by name could be construed as threatening." Ferrara promised to appeal.
Defendant Charles Wysong, founder of the American Rights Coalition—which files malpractice lawsuits against abortion providers—sees an ulterior motive. "This was a strategic lawsuit against political participation."
CYBERSPACE RIGHTS: As more organizations have used the Web to get out their message, the rights of free speech in cyberspace are being challenged.
In the past, only physical actions had been targeted as the basis for lawsuits against pro-life activists, using both the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
FACE, passed during President Clinton's first year in ...1
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