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10th Circuit Rejects Antiabortion-Rights Activist's Appeal Over Threats to Abortion Provider

10th Circuit Rejects Antiabortion-Rights Activist's Appeal Over Threats to Abortion Provider

October 1, 2015 — On Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition to reconsider its prior ruling that a Kansas antiabortion-rights activist must stand trial for a threatening letter she sent to a Wichita doctor, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/29).

Background

In 2011, the Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against antiabortion-rights activist Angel Dillard under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act after she wrote the letter to Mila Means, who was training to offer abortion services in Wichita. Wichita had not had an abortion provider since the murder of George Tiller.

In the letter, Dillard wrote that thousands of people nationwide were scrutinizing Means' background, adding, "They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live." The letter continued, "You will be checking under your car every day -- because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Dillard's letter was constitutionally protected as free speech and did not constitute a "true threat." The DOJ Civil Rights Division appealed the ruling. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit in July overturned the lower court decision and ruled that Dillard must stand trial over the letter (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30). Dillard petitioned the 10th Circuit, asking for either the three-judge panel or the full court to reconsider the ruling (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/29).

Means eventually decided that she would not offer abortion care at her clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30).

Ruling Details

On Tuesday, the 10th Circuit rejected Dillard's petition. The court wrote in its order that Dillard's petition had been submitted to all the court's active judges and that none of the judges had requested a vote on whether the full panel should rehear the case.

Theresa Sidebotham, an attorney representing Dillard, said Dillard had not yet decided whether to appeal to the Supreme Court (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 9/29).