Abort This Website 

Court Allows Anti-Abortion Website to Re-Launch

Pictures of babies' limbs in bloody garbage bags are plastered all over the recently re-launched "Nuremberg Files" website. Along with those images are lists of so-called "baby butchers." The website, under the wing of the locally-based American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), gained national attention several years ago when it was linked to the killing of two abortion doctors.

The site was ordered offline in 1999, when a Portland-based grand jury said the website constituted a "real threat" to abortion providers. At the time, abortion supporters breathed a sigh of relief.

The site provides "unwanted posters" of abortion providers and explicit information about them--photographs, names, addresses, phone, and license-plate numbers. The new incarnation of the site also has added a few more bells and whistles: It promises to train webcams "outside baby-butcher businesses across the nation."

In March, the gag order on the site and a $107 million settlement against the ACLA and their cohorts was lifted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling has sent a chill down the backs of abortion providers and put Portland back in the heated center of the war over abortion rights.

In an odd coincidence, the Court's reversal came on the heels of the arrest of James Kopp, an anti-abortion activist on the lam. In 1998, Kopp shot and killed an upstate New York doctor who had appeared in the Nuremberg Files' notorious "unwanted" posters. Nonetheless, the Court's ruling said the website's cataloging of explicit information about abortion providers is a form of political expression protected by the First Amendment.

"I think [the Court's] decision basically sanctions terrorism," says Kathleen Sullivan, Executive Director of Oregon National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). "And it equates these kinds of activities with freedom of speech."

The Court's interpretation of the First Amendment was, in fact, so broad that even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), long-time freedom of speech watch dogs, didn't jibe with the decision. The ACLU has petitioned the court on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Although the Oregon State Constitution protects abortion rights more comprehensively than the U.S. Constitution, 81 percent of counties in Oregon still have no abortion provider. What's more, between 1992 and 1996, the number of abortion providers dwindled from 40 to 35 in the state.

"There is always a risk for people who work in abortion clinics," says Carye Ortman, Director of Services at Lovejoy Surgicenter, who is listed in the Nuremberg Files as "baby-butcher weapons provider." Ortman, whose clinic was forced to prosecute anti-abortionists for harassment several years ago, adds, "You can't invalidate that every time I go to work, my family says, 'Have a safe day.'"

The climate of fear that surrounds those who work in the profession is palpable. Of four abortion providers contacted by the Mercury (including a doctor listed on the site and a clinic listed among the plaintiffs for the case against the ACLA), none would comment on the court's decision.

Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/ Willamette (PPCW), a local branch of the national organization targeted by anti-abortionists, will appeal the Court's ruling. The appeal will be reviewed by a full Ninth Circuit rather than the three-judge panel that made the decision in March; two of the presiding judges in that panel were appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush, whose administrations publicly opposed abortion.

Elizabeth Newhall, one of the four doctors pleading the case, says "It's easy to take it apart in a legal way and not really understand the situation within context." Newhall appeared in an "unwanted" poster a few years ago. At first she hadn't taken it seriously. But after two "unwanted" doctors were murdered and a rash of clinic bombings took place, the FBI urged her to take serious precautions. Newhall continues to practice medicine in Portland, and says, "for me, my concern is that women continue to receive safe services."

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