Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Anti-Choice Violence
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2002

This case was brought by Planned Parenthood and four doctors who were targeted and threatened by anti-choice organizations and individuals.

Summary of the Case

The doctors in this case had been targeted by "Wanted" style posters, and defendants had provided information about them to the "Nuremberg Files" web site, which listed reproductive health care providers and marked off their names if they were injured or killed for providing those services.  After a jury rendered a $107 million verdict for the plaintiffs, defendants appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum supported an amicus brief that described the context of violence and fear faced by abortion providers and highlighted how Congress enacted FACE to address threats of force such as those issued against the plaintiffs.  The brief was filed by the Feminist Majority Foundation with pro bono assistance from Chapman, Popik & White.

Decision

After a panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court decision, the full Ninth Circuit sitting en banc reheard the case and affirmed the decision below in all aspects except for punitive damages.  The Ninth Circuit held that the posters at issue constituted a true "threat of force" under the FACE statute, and found adequate evidence that the posters had been prepared and disseminated in order to intimidate physicians from providing reproductive health services.  Finally, the court held that restraining these anti-abortion activists from continuing to threaten these physicians burdened speech no more than necessary.