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U.S. Urges Halt to Abortion Case

Bush team asks Supreme Court not to take up appeal over protesters' use of 'wanted' posters.

June 03, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has urged the Supreme Court to reject a politically charged abortion case that seeks free-speech protection for protesters who used "wanted" posters to target doctors.

The administration said the court should leave undisturbed a ruling against antiabortion protesters for listing personal information about abortion clinic employees on the Internet and on posters.

The Supreme Court asked for the government's views in the case in December and delayed acting on the appeal by activists who were ordered to pay nearly $110 million in punitive damages. The administration brief was filed Friday and made public Monday.

The justices probably will decide this month whether to hear the case, which involves a law that protects access to abortion clinics. Justices often -- but not always -- follow the recommendations of the government.

After three doctors listed on Old West-style wanted posters were killed in the 1990s, other physicians sued, claiming they feared for their lives after being included in a round of posters.

Antiabortion activists were accused of violating a racketeering law and the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The activists maintain that their activities are protected free speech.

Their attorney, Edward White III, said he was disappointed that the Bush administration opposed the appeal. "We think that the United States of America should support the free speech of all groups," he said.

The case raises some of the same issues as the appeal by several men who were punished for burning crosses in Virginia. Justices ruled in April that a burning cross is an instrument of racial terrorism so threatening it trumps free-speech concerns.

The case is American Coalition of Life Activists vs. Planned Parenthood, 02-563.

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