Federal judge extends temporary restraining order at Louisville abortion clinic
Dozens of protesters from the group Operation Save America were gathered outside the federal courthouse along Broadway in downtown Louisville at noon.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The temporary restraining order for protests outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center on West Market Street in downtown Louisville will no longer be challenged.
After hearing arguments Monday about whether to keep a temporary buffer zone in place around Kentucky's sole clinic to perform abortions, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale initially ordered a break in the early afternoon, postponing the hearing until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. But Monday evening, the defendants agreed to continue the temporary restraining order until its "scheduled expiration two hours after close of business" on Saturday.
Dozens of protesters from the group Operation Save America gathered throughout the hearing outside the federal courthouse along Broadway in downtown Louisville. They had been there since early in the morning and were also seen outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center on West Market Street.
"There's a federal restraining order that we're addressing today, hoping to have our day in court,” said Chet Gallagher, Assistant Director of Operation Save America.
The protests spilled over from this weekend after pro-life advocates were asked by a judge last week to stay away from a buffer zone outside the EMW Clinic. The buffer zone is 15-feet long by 7-1/2 feet wide. Some critics argue that the buffer zone is too modest, while protesters said it violates free speech since it's located on a public sidewalk.
"When you start grabbing First Amendment rights from one group, you can grab it from everybody," Gallagher said. "So it's a very big deal for us."
The judge's order came after nearly a dozen protesters were arrested at a demonstration on May 13. Police said they linked arms and blocked access to the front doors of the clinic. That violates the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances or FACE act, so the U.S. government is asking a federal judge to keep the buffer zone in place while the Operation Save America is back in Louisville this week.
On Monday morning, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked for an extension of five more days to keep the temporary buffer zone in place. During the hearing, the judge heard from a woman and a clinic escort who were at the EMW Clinic the day of the arrests.
"The buffer zone around the door keeps the protesters from crowding, and it gives the clients a little bit more space to access the door," a clinic escort named Christine said.
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