Louisville Metro Council to consider plan for 'buffer zone' arou - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville Metro Council to consider plan for 'buffer zone' around abortion clinic

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Louisville Metro Council's Public Safety Committee is expected to consider a plan to create a buffer zone between protesters and people entering Kentucky's last remaining abortion clinic in downtown Louisville.

The plan calls for a 20-foot buffer zone around the EMW Women’s Clinic on Market Street. The ACLU recommended the buffer zone be 8-feet wide, and stretch from the clinic's front doors to the street.

Supporters of the buffer zone said it will not obstruct free speech. They said it will protect patients from hostile protesters.

Council member Vicki Aubrey Welch says Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s office has been researching buffer zone and related laws across the country, and notes the proposed buffer zone could face obstacles.

“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.”

In May, 10 people were arrested after trying to block the clinic's front doors. And last week, seven protesters were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing after trying to block the clinic's front doors.

LMPD officials tell us they typically see up to 40 people protesting outside the clinic every Saturday.

Those against the buffer zone say it interferes with religious freedom. Rusty Thomas with Operation Save America says his group will find other places to protest if the ordinance is passed.

"All the different venues will be covered, and if some of them can't be at the actual abortion mill, there's other venues where they can serve and be a witness," Thomas said.

Arguments about the buffer zone will be heard this afternoon by the Louisville Metro Council's Public Safety Committee. At least four different pastors from local churches will attend to voice their concerns.

The hope was to have a draft ordinance ready for council members to review at Wednesday night’s meeting. Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith says that draft hasn't been drawn up yet, but the committee wants to be transparent and hear all sides before deciding how to proceed.

So far, 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.

Council members say they also plan to explore additional options.

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