by Steven Ertelt
May 23, 2006
West Palm Beach, FL (LifeNews.com) — City officials in West Palm Beach have adopted a pair of abortion protest laws to keep pro-life advocates away from a local abortion business. The laws come after a judge found unconstitutional the city’s first attempts to restrict protests.
City commissioners approved a pair of less strict laws on Monday. The revised laws prohibit anyone from blocking traffic or approaching vehicles traveling on roads outside the local abortion center. They also prohibit using loudspeakers or bullhorns or other types of amplified sound.
The new laws don’t include a 20-foot buffer zone around driveways to the abortion business or other public areas. That’s because U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks struck down those provisions in a previous law in April.
Abortion advocates told the Palm Beach Post newspaper that the new laws don’t do enough to protect the abortion facility.
"The passage of these laws do not do enough for the physical safety of the patients and staff," said Mona Reis, the founder of the Presidential Women’s Center abortion business. "It will do nothing to minimize harassment."
Reis and Louis Silber, an attorney for PWC, urged the commissioners to adopt an 8-foot buffer zone, which Judge Middlebrooks suggested would be a legal alternative.
But Assistant City Attorney Jacob Rose told the Post that the city is looking at customized buffer zones for each medical center in town and another law containing those zones may be approved down the road.
The commissioners approved the new laws on a 3-0 vote and Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell was absent. A second vote must be held to finalized the decision.
Faith Crowashaw of Jupiter told the city officials that she wants pro-life people to be able to be at the abortion center to warn women considering abortions about the potential dangers, the Post reported.
"If there had just been one person who told me I had other options, I would not be standing here," she said. "The greatest regret of my life was the taking of the life of my first child in 1979."
"It’s just another way to silence us from doing our job, giving women a choice," Jim Thoma, added. He distributes pro-life literature outside the abortion facility.
City officials put the law in place, which creates a 20 foot zone around the abortion center, after someone set fire to the Presidential Women’s Center last October. There was no connection between the arson and local pro-life groups, who condemned the crime.
Middlebrooks ruled that the city did not prove any problems existed that warranted the buffer zone. West Palm Beach officials claimed pro-life people were threatening public safety and restricting access to the abortion facility.
"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."
The judge issued a preliminary ruling and indicated the city would lose in a trial.
Middlebrooks also said a law that prohibits "unnecessary noise" and "amplified sound" within 100 feet of an abortion center can be enforced, though he found it flawed as well.
Michael DePrimo, an attorney for three pro-life women who frequently protest outside the abortion center said the judge ruled correctly.
"It appears in this case you had Mayor Lois Frankel working hand-in-hand with abortion clinic director Mona Reis," DePrimo told the Post. "And the ordinance was designed to suppress the speech of pro-life demonstrations."
Buffer zones have reached the Supreme Court in the past and it overturned a "floating" 15 foot zone in New York but let a fixed zone stand.