FREE SPEECH -- A federal judge has ruled that a 2008 Oakland ordinance barring abortion protesters from coming within eight
feet of women entering and exiting abortion clinics is constitutional, reports Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times.

"I
am horribly disappointed," said the Rev. Walter Hoye, a Berkeley-based
Baptist minister who challenged the so-called bubble ordinance after he
was convicted of violating it last year.



In a federal lawsuit, Hoye said that the Oakland
law is unconstitutionally vague and that police applied it unfairly to
abortion foes.


But U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San
Francisco found the law both neutral in its content and appropriately
applied by police who arrested Hoye last year in front of Family
Planning Specialists Medical Group, an abortion clinic near Jack London
Square.


The law applies within 100 feet of clinics.

The law, said Breyer, protects access to
healthcare, "an important government objective," and does not illegally
interfere with the right of abortion foes to try to make themselves
heard -- albeit from a distance.

Once a week for the last few
years, Hoye stationed himself on the sidewalk outside the clinic,
holding a sign that read, "God loves you and your baby. Let us help
you." He would ask patients, "May I talk to you about alternatives?"

Breyer
acknowledged that Hoye "appears to take a relatively mild-mannered
approach to demonstrating," but added that not all protesters could be
expected to follow suit.

The judge did admonish clinic escorts
for their practice of holding up blank signs in front of Hoye's sign in
an attempt to prevent patients from seeing it. While "escorts are
motivated by a desire to minimize patients' distress," Breyer said,
such actions nonetheless violate the law.

One of Hoye's
attorneys, Michael Millen of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, said he
plans to appeal Breyer's ruling. "My reaction is, 'We'll see you in the
9th Circuit,' " Millen said, referring to the federal appellate court.

Hoye,
who opted for jail time rather than probation when he was convicted on
two counts of violating the law last year, said Tuesday he wasn't sure
when he would return to the clinic.