Clinic files second harassment lawsuit, 3/3/1999

By Dan Klepal, FLORIDA TODAY

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Aware Woman Center For Choice filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against two corporations, including online service providers, and several individuals — many from Brevard County — alleging harassment at the clinic’s Palm Beach County center.

Aware Woman is one of seven plaintiffs in the suit, which they hope will bw granted class action status on behalf of patients, physicians, staff and others “damaged by defendants.” The suit is similar to one filed in Orlando Jan. 5 by the clinic’s Melbourne center.

Patricia Baird-Windle, founder and president of Aware Woman, said the latest lawsuit was filed after she learned that women in Palm Beach County could not be included in the January suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District. West Palm Beach is part of the federal court system’s Southern District.

The suit alleges that individuals, including Meredith Raney Jr. of Melbourne, converged on the West Palm Beach clinic on March 4, 1995, to assist in a “blockade and obstruct the clinic.”

The corporate defendants “provided individual defendants with private and personal information on . . . patients, staff, doctors, and others” without their consent.

The suit says that Raney and others copied license plate numbers of patients parked at the clinic.

They created a “‘blackmail database’ to make unexpected and unwanted privacy-invading and security-threatening contact with” the patients, the suit states.

The suit seeks financial damages, declaratory relief and forfeiture of assets. It is based on constitutional rights and federal statutes:

  • The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law, which prohibits blocking abortion clinic entrances and bars intimidating women as they enter clinics.
  • The RICO statute, which prohibits racketeering or conspiring to break the law.
  • The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which bars the release of personal information from driver’s license records, such as home addresses and phone numbers.

Baird-Windle said the damage to her staff has been financial and emotional.

“I would have never looked for financial damages if they hadn’t done so much financial damage to me,” she said. “And there has been an enormous amount of emotional damage to my patients and my staff.

Raney denied doing anything outside of the law but declined to answer specific questions about the lawsuit Tuesday, saying he hadn’t seen it.

“I’ll just say that all any of us are trying to do is get information to women going in for abortions — information they won’t get inside,” Raney said.

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