A federal judge has permanently barred antiabortion protesters from entering a Fairfax County abortion clinic that has been the scene of sit-in demonstrations.

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined the case on behalf of the Northern Virginia Women's Medical Center, said the decision could set a precedent.

"The case serves as notice to all the antiabortion trespassers across the country that they cannot harass and intimidate either the clinic staff or women going in and out of (abortion) clinics," Betty Brinson said.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr. came in a suit filed by the clinic and its directors against a group of protesters who have claimed the clinic is violating rights of the unborn by performing abortions. Twice Fairfax County policy arrested demonstrators at the clinic and twice county judges dismissed charges against them.

After Fairfax County authorities said they would not prosecute the demonstrators, the clinic sought a court order to block demonstrations. Clarke's ruling gives them that order.

But it also leaves open the option that the demonstrators may continue the protests in a portion of a private parking lot near the clinic, at 3918 Prosperity Ave. That question is to be resolved at a hearing Tuesday.