pat: (Default)
( Mar. 22nd, 2006 10:37 pm)
There's that cartoon going around which gives out S.D. State Senator Bill Napoli's work number, and suggests women call him.


It gives out his home phone number.

Not funny. Not funny, and not cool, either.

Look, we've always screamed when pro-choice politicians and abortion providers had their home phone numbers publicized. Nothing makes this at all different.

Yes, I know he's in the book. Doesn't matter. There are legitimate reasons for public officials to be listed, which should not make them subject to harassing phone campaigns at home by non-constituents. Not to mention the other members of his household: whatever their views are (one assumes that they agree with the Senator, but who knows), they are private citizens, and really should have their privacy respected.

The Golden Rule, remember? Do unto others as you -- rightfully -- insist they should do unto you?

"The ends justify the means" rarely, if ever, proves a fruitful approach to anything.
Before everyone starts screaming about the SCOTUS decision this morning in Scheidler v. National Organization for Women (04-1244), claiming that the court has said that it's okay for anti-abortion protesters to engage in threats or acts of violence, let's step back and take a deep breath.

What the Court is doing is statutory interpretation. NOW's claims rested on alleged violations of the Hobbs Act, which prohibits violence of threats of violence for purposes of extortion or robbery. This question had sort of been presented to the Court before, in 2003. Then, the Court had ruled that the violence or threat of violence had to be in furtherance of an attempt to obtain property from the victims in order to be extortion and thus fall under the Hobbs Act. At that time, the Court found that preventing access to clinics did not constitute an effort "to obtain property" and therefore was not extortion thus invalidating Hobbs Act claims (as well as state anti-extortion law claims). They then sent it back down to the District Court to find for the protesters.

At the District Court, NOW argued that there were acts of violence and threats of violence that were not extortion related but that did affect interstate commerce, and that these were likewise prohibited by the Hobbs Act, through a somewhat ambiguous reading of one part of the Act. The District Court said, hmm, makes sense to us, and found for NOW.

SCOTUS basically said that the Hobbs Act was clearly and on its face aimed at preventing extortion. And so found against NOW. (There is also the "We already decided this case, doofuses, why didn't you do what we told you?" aspect to the decision.)

It's a good decision. To get to the decision NOW wanted required distorting a reasonable reading of the statute. Personally, I don't want a Court that engages in expansive readings of legislation, even when the outcome is one I would otherwise want, especially under this administration. Even if one were to argue that the Court is quite willing to read legislation expansively where it suits its purpose, I don't think "everyone does it" makes sound legal reasoning.

Three things worth noting:

It was a unanimous decision (Alito did not take part since he was not there for oral argument), which means that even the "liberal" wing agreed that NOW's position was wrong.

In 1994, Congress passed the "Freedom to Access to Clinic Entrances" (FACE) Act, prohibiting violent and obstructive behavior by anti-abortion groups. Yes, Congress could always repeal the FACE Act, but they could always amend the Hobbs Act to provide that it does not cover the sort of activity NOW wants it to, as well, so that argument doesn't wash.

One of groups filing an amicus brief in support of the protesters was PETA. Doesn't surprise me at all.


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