NOW Sues Anti-Abortion Group to Keep Clinics from Being Blocked
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Organization for Women went to court Friday in an attempt to stop an anti-abortion group from blocking abortion clinics.
The organization alleges in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that members of Operation Rescue plan to illegally harass and intimidate patients and employees at abortion clinic demonstrations scheduled to begin Nov. 10 in the Washington, D.C., area.
NOW seeks a preliminary injunction to prohibit ″trespassing on, sitting in, blocking, impeding or obstructing ... any facility″ offering abortions, family planning or gynecological services.
If a court order is issued, Operation Rescue will proceed with its plans, said members of the organization, an evangelical Christian group with an estimated 35,000 supporters that has demonstrated at abortion clinics around the country.
″We will be in Washington in November,″ Susan Odom of Operation Rescue told a news conference when asked about NOW’s court case. A preliminary injunction is in effect against Operation Rescue in Broom County, N.Y., prohibiting the group from trespassing at two medical facilities or harassing visitors. A similar court order is in effect in Palm Beach County, Fla., said Operation Rescue attorney Kyndra Mulder, who said it ″has had no effect″ at three subsequent demonstrations.
″I am tired of listening to my sisters in the National Organization for Women accuse me of violence,″ Odom said. She said members of Operation Rescue have ″remained passive″ while NOW and ″their belligerent henchmen″ have assaulted ″rescuers sitting on the ground.″
The lawsuit said that Operation Rescue’s activities have closed clinics where abortions are performed and that the group has ″intimidated and harassed patients and employees of the clinics.″
NOW is asking U.S. District Court Judge Louis Oberdorfer to fine Operation Rescue $25,000 a day if the group violates any preliminary injunction the judge might issue in the case.
In the last year, there have been more than 500 arrests as a result of Operation Rescue’s actions at the Hillcrest Women’s Surgi-Center in Washington, D.C., and at the Commonwealth Women’s Clinic in Virginia.
The suit says that a group called the Veterans Campaign for Life plans disruptions at abortion and family planning facilities on Veterans Day weekend. The Veterans Campaign is affiliated with Operation Rescue and is one of the 10 organizations and individuals against whom the suit is filed.
Joining NOW in the suit are Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and eight other groups, including the Virginia and Maryland state chapters of NOW and the Hillcrest and Commonwealth clinics.