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Congress Stalls the Bankruptcy Bill Over An Amendment That Would Prevent Anti-Abortion Protesters From Escaping Their Debt

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A five-year struggle to rewrite the US bankruptcy laws is stalled in Congress this week, over an amendment that would prevent anti-abortion protesters from wiping out their debts by filing bankruptcy. The financial industry has never been so close to tightening the rules on debtors. Yet Republican leaders in the solidly anti-choice House of Representatives hint that they may block the bill unless the language is changed. Despite intense pressure from the banking and credit card industries to save the legislation, the stridently anti-choice Representative Henry Hyde has threatened to stymie the bill.

Countless anti-abortion protesters have used the bankruptcy laws to escape paying court-imposed fines or damages to abortion clinics and cities where violent protests took place. Pro-choice advocates say it is just one more legal loophole that has allowed anti-choice protesters to continue to wage war on clinics.

Among those using the bankruptcy law are Randall Terry, founder and long-time leader of Operation Rescue, and Joe Scheidler, the so-called “grandfather of the anti-choice direct action movement,” and author of the book ??Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion.

In 1998, after Randall Terry had violated court orders preventing him from blockading clinics in New York, he was fined for numerous counts of property damage. But Terry declared bankruptcy, saying he wanted to avoid paying the more than $1 million he owed “to those who would use my money to promote the killing of the unborn.” The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund has had a long battle with Terry and brought several suits against him.


  • Martha Davis, vice president and legal director of the National Organization of Women Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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  • Di Great Insohrechshan -Linton Kwesi Johnson, Independant Intavenshan–The Island Anthology (Island CD).

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