Protection for protesters
Groups and individuals across the political spectrum got the point and filed briefs backing the abortion protesters. They included People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Martin Sheen, and Concerned Women for America. In its brief, PETA said its members had been sued under RICO for actions in an animal testing laboratory. Some civil rights activists believe that if RICO had become law a decade earlier, segregationists would have used it to quash the movement.
The American Civil Liberties Union has had a hard time coping with RICO. It came out against the law early, then waffled for years in response to abortion-rights lobbying both outside and inside its structure. Harvey Silverglate, a board member of the Massachusetts ACLU, said sympathy for abortion rights caused the ACLU to drop its guard on a serious violation of political freedom. In 1990, Lynn Paltrow of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project told me: "It's ACLU policy to oppose application of RICO, but there are those on staff who feel that as long as RICO exists, this kind of behavior [aggressive antiabortion tactics] does sort of fit." I wrote here at the time: "In other words, RICO is totally bad, but sort of useful." Now that the court has forbidden the abortion lobby to use RICO as a club, the ACLU might feel free to return to a principled position.