Local pastor tells Metro Council he will not obey a safety zone outside abortion clinic

It's the only abortion clinic left in the state, and protests there are getting more aggressive. On Wednesday, Metro Council heard discussions about a "safety zone" outside the EMW Clinic in downtown Louisville.

Supporters are fighting for a 20-foot buffer zone, something the ACLU recommends that would be 8-feet wide and stretch from the clinic's front door to the street.

Anti-abortion emotions boiled over at Metro Hall at the end of a Council Public Safety Committee meeting.

"Respect the unborn children," shouted local pastor Joseph Spurgeon. "Respect our free speech. We will not obey buffer zone laws!"

During Spurgeon's speech, he blamed violence in the west end on legal abortion. He was escorted out by police.

It happened after EMW Clinic supporters and volunteers asked council members for a "buffer zone."

"We ask only for a 20-foot safety zone at the entrance to the abortion clinic," Kate Cunningham told council members.

Cunningham said the zone will not obstruct free speech but will protect patients from hostile protesters.

"Protesters may gather 20 feet from the entrance and continue to yell loudly, harass women and hold up 2x4-foot signs depicting bloody fetuses," Cunningham said.

Last month, 11 protesters were arrested after trying to block the clinic's front doors.

"You typically see up to 40 people," said LMPD Maj. Eric Johnson, who currently assigns police officers to the clinic each Saturday. "It's much more aggressive."

"Being that we're in a free country still, I think everyone has to listen to their own heart, and think, 'What is the best way I can help babies and help mothers?'" said Margie Montgomery with Kentucky Right to Life.

It's a controversial issue, but Councilwoman Barbara-Sexton Smith said it comes down to safety.

"This is not a conversation about a Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade," she said. "This is a conversation about the public safety of the folks in Jefferson County."

The proposed buffer zone is still in the early phases of discussion. A proposed ordinance has not been drafted yet. Council members say they will also explore additional options. 

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