ABORTION INDUSTRY IN MELBOURNE, FLORIDA
RANEY V AWARE WOMAN
DOCKET / CHRONOLOGICAL FILE
FLORIDA TODAY, 11/19/97, Pro-lifer's suit challenges clinic protection
FLORIDA TODAY, Wednesday, November 19, 1997
Pro-lifer's suit challenges clinic protection
By Frank Oliveri
MELBOURNE -- Local pro-life activist Meredith Raney is attempting to use a law - designed to protect abortion clinic workers and clients from harassment - as the basis for a federal lawsuit against a Melbourne clinic that performs abortions.
If successful, the lawsuit - the first of its kind in the nation - could seriously alter the way the law is interpreted and destroy its intent, said Patricia Baird-Windle, co-owner and chief executive of the Aware Woman Center for Choice, the suit's target.
"I don't think they think they have a prayer," Baird-Windle said. "Ultimately, it is so stupid that it will not prevail, but it is doing what they wanted to do: keeping us busy and broke defending it."
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act - also known as the FACE law - prohibits force, the threat of force, physical obstruction, intimidation or injury, which might interfere with a person's attempt to obtain or provide reproductive services.
Raney has filed a federal suit in the Orlando district court, arguing that he was denied a right to provide "reproductive health counseling" to females entering Aware Woman on Dixie Way.
He claims such counseling falls within the purview of the law.
"The FACE law does not belong to or favor the abortion industry," Raney said. "It protects any 'person or any class of persons ... obtaining or providing reproductive health services.'"
Representatives of the clinic demanded that the district judge dismiss the case, arguing that the law does not apply to self-proclaimed counselors working on the street in front of the clinic.
A decision is pending.
"This law was enacted to protect business invitees of the clinic," said attorney Vince Torpy, who represents the clinic.
"All statutes are enacted for the purpose of protecting a particular class of individual. Mr. Raney does not belong to that certain class."
Raney was arrested in early 1996 for allegedly violating a court-ordered injunction that created a 36-foot buffer zone around the clinic.
He later was exonerated by a local judge who said Raney was not specifically cited in the injunction. It also could not be proven that he was acting in concert with any of the individuals cited in the injunction.
Raney said his arrest denied him free access to the clinic entrance.
He was arrested by Melbourne police, but contends officers were acting as agents of the clinic. Therefore, he decided to sue Aware Woman.
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