Senate Democrats

Senator Harry Reid Statement Supporting the Schumer/Reid Amendment to the Bankruptcy Bill

“I am proud to rise as a co-sponsor of the Schumer amendment that would ensure that debts arising from unlawful acts of violence cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

“America is a nation of laws. You might not always agree with the law or how it is interpreted, but that does not entitle you to willfully violate it without consequences.

“The right way to express disagreement with a law is to seek to change it through peaceful means. It is never appropriate to resort to violence or intimidation in violation of law.

“Here in the Senate, we express policy differences through civil discourse and resolve them through the political process – not through violence. We debate passionately – but in a manner of respect and civility – and attempt to persuade others of the merits of our positions.

“Those who resort to violence are violating not only our laws, but our American principles and values. They are violating the rule of law on which this country was founded.

“Unfortunately, some individuals who break the law are using a loophole in the bankruptcy code to avoid paying the fines and penalties assessed against them as a result of their illegal activity.

“The Schumer/Reid amendment will ensure that individuals who engage in acts of violence, intimidation or threats cannot hide in bankruptcy from the penalties imposed on them for violating the law.

“I want to emphasize that this amendment is not about the right to abortion, nor does it single out anti-abortion protestors. This amendment applies to anyone who violates a law related to the provision of lawful goods and services. Therefore it applies to any extremist who turn to violence to protest lawful activities.

“For example, this amendment would apply to an animal rights activist who engages in illegal tactics to shut down lawful animal research. It would apply to an eco-terrorist who engages in illegal tactics to intimidate car dealerships or timber companies. It would apply to an arsonist who starts a fire at a church to deprive worshipers of the right to practice their religion. All of these extremists must be held accountable for their actions, and none should not be permitted to discharge their debts in bankruptcy.

“It is true that some of the worst abuses of this kind have been by anti-abortion extremists who have terrorized reproductive health care workers.

“They have directed thousands of acts of violence against abortion providers, including bombings, arsons, death threats, kidnappings, assaults and murders.

“One of these victims was Dr. Barnett Slepian, a husband and a father of four.

“Dr. Slepian was an OB-GYN. He provided health care to women and delivered babies. And he also performed abortions at a downtown clinic, because he wanted to ensure that even poor women had access to safe, legal procedures. Because of this he was murdered.

“I didn’t know Dr. Selpian, but I learned after his death that he was the uncle of a woman from Reno, Nevada who worked for me here in Washington.

“Dr. Slepian’s killer is not only a cold-blooded murderer, but should also been seen as a terrorist.

“The man responsible for killing Dr. Slepian was extradited a few years ago from France where he had fled. His name is James Kopp.

“James Kopp was a part of an organized network of violent extremists, including a group that calls itself the Army of God.

“This group and others similar to it have engaged in a long campaign of harassment, intimidation and violence.

“In 1994, we passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which established federal criminal and financial penalties for those who employ violence and intimidation to prevent persons from obtaining or providing reproductive health services.

“The FACE Act is essential to protecting the lives of women and health care providers.

“Unfortunately, some of the people charged under the FACE Act are filing for bankruptcy to avoid accountability for their conduct.

“For example, defendants in the “Nuremberg Files” case have tried to nullify years of court proceedings by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

“The “Nuremberg Files” website posted the names, addresses, and license plate numbers of reproductive health care workers – and even posted pictures of their targets’ family members and places where their children waited for the school bus.

“Doctors who still worked appeared in plain text; those who had been wounded were “grayed out”; and those who had been murdered – including Dr. Bernard Slepian – had a line crossing out their names.

“It is intolerable that the groups which incite these heinous acts of violence can discharge their civil penalties in bankruptcy, but that is exactly what has happened.

“If we want to prevent future acts of violence — including clinic violence — then we need a specific provision in the bankruptcy law to prevent the discharge of violence-related debts. That’s why the amendment offered by Senator Schumer is so important.

“As many of my colleagues know, I do not support abortion. But this amendment is not about abortion.

“It is about holding responsible those who commit illegal acts and believe that they are above the law. This amendment is about preserving the rule of law.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Schumer/Reid Amendment.”