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Abortion-clinic buffer zone too strict, federal judge rules

By The Associated Press
04.18.06

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A city law requiring abortion protesters to obey a 20-foot buffer zone violates free-speech rights, a federal judge has found.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled that the ordinance was too strict.

"Freedom of speech is rarely an issue when everyone agrees," Middlebrooks wrote. "Perhaps more than at any other place and any other time, in cases such as this, speech guaranteed by the First Amendment must be protected."

A related law prohibiting "unnecessary noise" and "amplified sound" within 100 feet of such facilities can be enforced, Middlebrooks said.

The law was passed in October.

Michael DePrimo, an attorney for three women who regularly protest outside the Presidential Women's Center, said: "It appears in this case you had Mayor Lois Frankel working hand-in-hand with abortion clinic director Mona Reis.

"And the ordinance was designed to suppress the speech of pro-life demonstrations."

He said the city could be liable for attorneys' fees, which amount to about $40,000 so far.

"Unless my lawyer tells me the fat lady has sung, it's not over," Frankel said.

Reis said she hoped a new ordinance could be adopted.

"Needless to say, we're disappointed," she said. "We will continue to do whatever we can do to ensure a safe environment for our patients with dignity."


Previous
Abortion foes challenge buffer zone around Fla. clinic
Attorney says law is broader than others that have been upheld because it bars demonstrators from approaching 'both willing and unwilling listeners.' 10.24.05

Related

High court turns down buffer-zone case

Without comment, justices let stand lower court ruling upholding Massachusetts law that regulates speech, activities around abortion clinics. 04.18.05

1st Circuit backs expanded buffer zones outside Mass. abortion clinics

Attorney general's office defended 2007 statute, saying it enhanced public safety and clinic access, while still guaranteeing people's right to express opinions near medical facilities. 07.10.09

Abortion protests & buffer zones


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