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Abortion protest group loses appeal

When the guilty verdicts rolled in last summer against 150-plus abortion protesters tried en masse at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, they vowed to win on appeal. They lost that appeal Monday. A Hillsborough circuit judge ruled that the trial judge properly refused to allow the protesters to argue that their crimes were necessary because they were saving lives.

The protesters were charged with trespassing at Tampa Women's Health Center on April 15, and County Judge James Arnold conducted the trial in June.

He ruled that because abortion is legal in Florida and a first-trimester fetus is not considered a viable child, the necessity defense is irrelevant.

On appeal, the protesters claimed Arnold's ruling kept them from presenting a full defense. But Hillsborough Circuit Judge John P. Griffin, sitting as the appeal court, agreed with Arnold.

"Courts historically have denied the (necessity) defense when it's used to justify acts of civil disobedience that rest upon considerations of morality or religious beliefs," Griffin wrote.