Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Important Free Speech Decision Breaks Buffer Zone Around Abortion Mill

Here's the AP story as reported on ABC-TV's Channel 28 news page:

WEST PALM BEACH - A city law requiring abortion protesters to obey a 20-foot buffer zone violates free-speech rights, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled April 11 that the ordinance is too strict and issued a preliminary injunction, ordering the parties into mediation.

"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.

"The ordinance was designed to suppress the speech of pro-life demonstrations," said Michael DePrimo, an attorney for three women who regularly protest outside the Presidential Women's Center and had challenged the law in federal court.
DePrimo 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," Mayor Lois Frankel said. Clinic director Reis said she hopes a new law can 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."