Metro Council Democrats may seek buffer zone for Louisville abor - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Council Democrats may seek buffer zone for Louisville abortion clinic

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Citing public safety concerns, Metro Council Democrats say they may push for a buffer zone between protesters and people entering an abortion clinic on Market Street.

A draft ordinance could be ready when the council’s public safety committee meets June 14 to hear from Louisville Metro Police and clinic officials.

Earlier this month, 10 people were arrested for blocking the entrance to the EMW Women's Surgical Center near Market and Second streets, the state’s lone facility that performs abortions. Anti-abortion protesters routinely gather near the clinic.

“What we have now is not sort of the normal, perfectly appropriate protestors who have been there for a long time,” said council member Bill Hollander, chairman of the council’s majority Democratic caucus. “We’ve got organized groups that come in from out of town targeting Kentucky and, you know, there’s a potential for it to get violent.”

Among those arrested May 13 were people from Texas, Washington and Missouri.

Council member Barbara Sexton Smith, a Democrat whose downtown district includes the clinic, said it’s too early to say if an ordinance will result from an “open conversation” planned with citizens through council hearings.

“We’ll hear from lots of folks, I’m sure, and then we’ll make decisions about whether to move forward with an ordinance or not,” she said. “There may be other alternatives and other options that would create a safe environment.”

An EMW spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia have placed bans on blocking the entrances to abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Three states have floating “bubble” zones around people entering the facilities.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in that state. Opponents of the ban mounted a challenge on First Amendment grounds.

Massachusetts later passed a law giving police the power to order demonstrators to stand 25 feet away from a clinic’s entrance.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s office has been researching buffer zone and related laws across the U.S., council member Vicki Aubrey Welch told fellow Democrats on Thursday.

“The problem is that that entrance is totally a public sidewalk,” Welch said. “It is not a private entrance. It’s a public sidewalk. They do not have a private entrance, they do not have a parking lot or anything that they can call theirs.”

Democrat Pat Mulhivill said one solution besides an ordinance might be a drop-off zone on EMW’s property, allowing people to use an employee entrance.

Kentucky Right to Life did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. But Joseph Spurgeon, pastor of the Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, Ind., said his group of anti-abortion protestors at the Louisville clinic simply would not obey a buffer zone ordinance.

“We would just ignore it,” he said. “We would fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

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