Federal Judge Rules Florida Abortion Protest Law Violates Free Speech

A city law requiring abortion protesters to obey a 20-foot buffer zone violates free-speech rights, according to a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks has ruled that the ordinance is 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, is an attorney for three women who regularly protest outside the Presidential Women's Center.

"It appears in this case you had Mayor Lois Frankel working hand-in-hand with abortion clinic director Mona Reis," DePrimo said. "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.

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."