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Context of '1985: Anti-Abortion Activists Gather to Celebrate Clinic Bombings'

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Joseph Scheidler.Joseph Scheidler. [Source: Pro-Life Action League]Anti-abortion activist Joseph Scheidler forms a group variously known as the Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) and the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN). Scheidler was a ranking member of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the US’s largest anti-abortion organization, until 1978, when he was dismissed from the group for his advocacy of violence. (Kushner 2003, pp. 38)

Anti-abortion activists with the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) gather at a motel in Appleton, Wisconsin, to celebrate their successes and plan further actions. The PLAN members apparently count a wave of abortion clinic bombings and arsons as successes; the motel’s marquee reads, “Welcome Pro-Life Activists—Have a Blast,” and some PLAN members wear firecrackers on their name badges. One of the featured events of the gathering is the reading of a letter from imprisoned clinic arsonist Curt Beseda. In 2002, author and journalist Frederick Clarkson will write: “This small but seminal meeting in many ways epitomized the brazen yet banal nature of organized antiabortion extremism—a rah-rah atmosphere, like some perverse parody of a pep rally, in which threats of future violence were cloaked as free speech, and past criminal acts were celebrated as valid tools for intimidating fellow citizens. A fringe culture was coalescing.” (Clarkson 12/2002) At this and other PLAN meetings, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler vows to stop abortion “by any means necessary.” He has previously called PLAN a “pro-life mafia.” The organization proclaims “a year of pain and fear” for anyone seeking or providing abortion. (National Organization for Women 9/2002; Clarkson 12/2002)

After 12 years of litigation, the National Organization for Women (NOW) wins its lawsuit against the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN, also known as the Pro-Life Action League, or PLAL—see 1980 and 1986) and other anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The jury hearing the case unanimously agrees that the defendants engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to deny women access to medical facilities. The jury determines that Operation Rescue (see 1986), PLAN, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler, and their co-defendants are racketeers under the RICO Act and should be held liable for triple damages for the harm their violent acts caused to women’s health clinics. (National Organization for Women 9/2002)


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