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Abortion "hit list" slammed in court

Antiabortion activists are found guilty of inciting violence by posting on the Net a list of physicians names that reads like a "wanted" poster.

Antiabortion activists were found guilty today of inciting violence by posting on the Net a list of physicians names that reads like a "wanted" poster.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the American Coalition of Life Activists and Advocates for Life Ministries in the U.S. District Court in Oregon, in an effort to deter sites like the Nuremberg Files, which lists contact information for more than 200 doctors and workers from abortion clinics around the country and calls for the "baby butchers" to be "brought to justice."

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The more than 12 defendants in the case were ordered to pay $100 million in damages to abortion clinics and doctors. They had argued that they have a free speech right to publish details about the doctors, but after a three-week trial, an eight-person jury found that such sites were a "true threat" to physicians who perform abortions, according to the Planned Parenthood Columbia/Willamette (PPCW) in Portland.

"While the threat of anti-choice terrorism is not over, this verdict means that these extremists cannot hide behind the First Amendment when they advocate killing abortion providers," Lois Backus, executive director of PPCW, said in a statement.

The case surrounded not just Web sites, but the distribution of paper "wanted" posters that include the names of doctors that provide abortions, and in some cases their home addresses as well. The Nuremberg Files urges people to send "photos or videotapes of the abortionist, their car, their house, friends, and anything else of interest, as many and as recent as possible."

In some instances, the Nuremberg Files lists the names of the doctors' children and spouses. A handful of names on the list are crossed out to mark a "fatality," among them New York physician Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was killed in his kitchen by a sniper bullet in October.

Planned Parenthood Abortion clinic sues Compuserve cited the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) in its lawsuit, which "makes it illegal to incite violence against abortion doctors and their patients," according to the Justice Department.

"Whether these threats are posted on trees or on the Internet, their intent and impact is the same: to threaten the lives of doctors who courageously serve women seeking to exercise their right to choose abortion," Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation, said in a statement.

Added Roger Evans, cocounsel for the plaintiffs, "We will us this judgment to try to deny these people financial resources for any future dirty work."

Supporters of the Nuremberg Files contend that the site is not a hit list.

In a past interview, Rev. Donald Spitz, founder of Pro-Life Virginia, said the site was erected to keep a record of doctors who perform abortions, in case the day comes that they can be put to trial for "crimes against humanity." Spitz said also that he is not opposed to violence against these doctors, and has called death-row inmate Paul Hill a hero for murdering Florida abortion doctor John Bayard Britton and his escort Jim Barret.