A Sept. 9 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh, headlined "Planned Parenthood lies when attacking pro-lifers," repeats assertions that statements made by a Planned Parenthood about an anti-abortion group in Illinois are "lies" and "libel" without proving that they, in fact, are.
Planned Parenthoood is building what Unruh describes as a "superstore abortion clinic" (a pejorative description he does not ascribe to anyone) in Aurora, Illinois. According to anti-abortion activist and WND columnist Jill Stanek, area Planned Parenthood official Steve Trombley sent a letter to city officials critical of local anti-abortion activists who are fighting the clinic and, in particular, the Pro-Life Action Network and its leader, Joe Scheidler. As quoted by Unruh:
• "Scheidler (along with a handful of other anti-abortion leaders) formed PLAN – the Pro Life Action Network. Scheidler called PLAN the 'pro-life mafia' and proclaimed 'a year of pain and fear' for anyone seeking or providing abortion.
• "After a six-week trial in 1998, a jury in Chicago unanimously found that the Pro-Life Action League Network orchestrated 121 crimes involving acts of threats of force or violence against women's health facilities that offered abortion. These crimes proven at trial included beating a post-operative ovarian surgery patient over the head with a sign, knocking her unconscious and causing her to bleed from the sutures in her abdomen; seizing a clinic administrator by the throat, choking and bruising her; and slamming a clinic staff member and volunteer against the stairs (sending them to a hospital and causing permanent injuries) and destroying medications and equipment. Joe Scheidler personally praised the individuals who carried out some of these misdeeds, even taking credit for them...."
Unruh repeats the response of Stanek -- "Oh my, if that doesn't scream libel lawsuit, I don't know what does" -- adding:
Her reaction stemmed from the fact that the allegations cited by Trombley in his letter were allegations in a precedent-setting lawsuit brought by the National National Organization for Women on behalf of all abortion providers in the U.S. including Planned Parenthood against pro-life protesters including Scheidler, alleging they engaged in a criminal conspiracy to halt the abortion industry.
But the case, before the U.S. Supreme Court three times, was repeatedly and resoundingly overturned, the last time on a rare unanimous decision. That essentially nullified lower court conclusions that the pro-life activists violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
But Stanek does not offer, and Unruh does not report no evidence to contradict Trombley's claim that the incidents happened, or that the court disproved their existence. All the court did is negate the claim that the incidents were part of a "criminal conspiracy to halt the abortion industry."
Unruh similarly quotes a letter from Tom Brejcha of the conservative Thomas More Society, attorney for Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League, demand that Trombley retract his "false and libelous assertions" by calling them a "legal nullity" because the RICO decision was overturned. Indeed Brejcha does not specifically refute the incidents described by Trombley; in fact, he tries to depict them as "what Dr. Martin Luther King had described as "peaceable, non-violent direct action" - peaceful, passive acts of Gandhian civil disobedience." So King and Gandhi would have approved "beating a post-operative ovarian surgery patient over the head with a sign, knocking her unconscious and causing her to bleed from the sutures in her abdomen"?
Unmentioned by Unruh are other claims Trombley made in his letter:
- Scheidler once said "I just wish I had a medal or some sort of battle scar for each time I was arrested" for his forceful opposition to abortion and throughout the period of militant anti-abortion protesting, when clinic bombings and murders of doctors spotted the headlines, Scheidler was unapologetic about his group's tactics. "I'm doing what I have to do. So what? I've got some misdemeanors... I don't consider myself a criminal," he said.
- Immediately upon learning of the Aurora facility, these radical anti-abortion activists began photographing the license plates of our construction workers and vowed to harass those who were working to build the facility. They also announced their intention of seeking a permit to picket the homes of our employees who will operate the facility.
Are Unruh and Stanek declining to challenge these claims (perhaps because they're true)? While Brejcha claims in his letter that Scheidler "has never been arrested let alone convicted of any criminal act in connection with pro-life or anti-abortion activity. He has never advocated violence against either persons or property. Nor has he engaged in any such violence in opposing abortion, or otherwise," Unruh does not mention it in his article.
It's also worth noting that, in accordance with longstanding WND practice, Unruh makes no apparent attempt to contact Trombley to give him an opportunity to respond to criticism of his letter.