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US Domestic Terrorism

Pro-Life Action League

Project: US Domestic Terrorism
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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)

Joseph Scheidler, the president of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980), and three PLAN members enter the Summit Women’s Health Clinic in Middletown, Delaware. Scheidler later says he is “casing the place,” according to court records. The day after the visit, protesters vandalize the clinic, seriously damaging equipment. (Clarkson 12/2002)

Members of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986) enter a women’s health clinic, the Pensacola Ladies Center, in Pensacola, Florida. They attack the clinic administrator, throwing her down the stairs; attack and injure an official of the National Organization for Women (NOW); blockade the clinic; and wreck medical equipment. During the attack, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler stands outside, praising the attackers and publicly claiming credit for the incident. The clinic will close for several days for repairs. (National Organization for Women 9/2002) The Ladies Center was firebombed twice in 1984 by anti-abortion activists (see 1984). (Kushner 2003, pp. 38) One of the protesters who takes part in the blockade and assault is James Kopp, who in 1998 will murder an abortion provider (see October 23, 1998). (Clarkson 3/30/2001)

National Organization for Women logo.National Organization for Women logo. [Source: National Organization for Women]The National Organization for Women (NOW) files a lawsuit against Joseph Scheidler, Scheidler’s organization Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980), and other anti-abortion organizations. NOW is joined in the suit by the Delaware Women’s Health Organization and the Pensacola Ladies Center (see March 26, 1986), and later the Summit Women’s Health Organization (see 1986). The lawsuit is part of a strategy devised by NOW president Eleanor Smeal to use federal antitrust laws to charge Scheidler and others with being part of a nationwide criminal conspiracy to close women’s health clinics through the use of violence and terror. The suit becomes known as NOW v. Scheidler. (National Organization for Women 9/2002; Clarkson 12/2002) The lawsuit seeks a nationwide injunction to stop the clinic invasions, and asks the courts to make those responsible for the attacks pay for the damage they caused. In 2002, the future president of NOW, Kim Gandy, will say of the lawsuit: “NOW decided we had to stop the violence. Scheidler and his gang were calling in blitzes—they would attack clinics without warning and hold staff and patients hostage. Clinics were being blockaded and invaded. If we did not act, we thought clinics would not be able to stay open.” NOW attorney Fay Clayton will say the case seeks “to ensure that the constitutional right [to abortion] recognized [in 1973] would exist not just in theory, but in reality.” According to a 2002 Ms. Magazine report, the case only targets anti-abortion protesters who engage in criminal acts such as criminal trespass, assault, and conspiracy to block access to clinics. It makes no effort to halt peaceful protests as protected by the First Amendment. The lawsuit claims that PLAN and others engaged in what the federal racketeering law prohibits: namely, a “pattern of racketeering activity,” including the use of fear, force, and violence, in order to prevent people from receiving and providing legal abortions. Clayton maintains that the actions met the legal definition of organized crime. (Clarkson 12/2002)

A Texas jury awards Dr. Norman Tompkins and his wife Carolyn damages of $8.6 million, in a lawsuit the couple filed against anti-abortion activists. The organizations Operation Rescue, Missionaries to the Pre-Born, and the Dallas chapter of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986) were found liable in over 10 months of harassment against the couple. During that time, anti-abortion activists picketed the family’s home and offices; followed them to social events, church, and elsewhere; distributed fliers calling Tompkins a murderer; and were overheard by neighbors talking about shooting Tompkins. They left frequent anonymous threats on the family’s answering machine; one such message said in part: “I’m going to cut your wife’s liver out and make you eat it. Then I’m going to cut your head off.” Dr. Tompkins, an obstetrician/gynecologist, eventually quit his practice and the couple moved from their Dallas home. The defendants are liable for $3.6 million in punitive damages, $2.25 million for intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and $2.8 million for invading the Tompkins’ privacy. (Newport News Daily Press 10/29/1995; National Organization for Women 1/1996; Sarah Jones 10/20/2010)

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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