LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – In 2020, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, was racked with nightly protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, and yet another battle was brewing within the city.
The sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic became ground zero for pro-abortion and anti-abortion advocates. The city council swept in and used the coronavirus pandemic to create a buffer zone, preventing anti-abortion counselors from approaching women entering the facility.
That decision has prompted the American Center for Law and Justice to file a lawsuit to counter the buffer zone, stating that the supreme court has already ruled in a 2014 decision in McCullen v. Coakley that sidewalk counselors are not protestors and that their services are the “essence of First Amendment expression” and that no form of speech is entitled to greater protection. That decision was handed down by a unanimous Supreme Court – including such liberal stalwarts as Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and “RBG.”
The McCullen Court decision struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law (remarkably similar to Louisville’s) on the grounds that it was not narrowly tailored since it burdened substantially more speech than necessary to advance the government’s legitimate interests. The Court held that, before any buffer zone regardless of size could be sustained, the government must show that it has tried or seriously considered and reasonably rejected alternative measures that would burden substantially less speech, not just that the chosen route of painted lines on the sidewalk excluding all speakers was easier to enforce.
The city council claimed that pro-lifers approaching and speaking with women entering Kentucky’s last abortion clinic was a public health nuisance that required the creation of a buffer zone.
The ACLJ states that this year’s version of the ordinance made no mention at all of a public health emergency. Instead, this year’s version was all about an alleged history of blocking, obstruction, and harassment at “healthcare” facilities throughout the Louisville region.
Curiously, however, the only facility mentioned in the ordinance was the EMW abortion clinic. Nevertheless, the council went ahead and enacted a “buffer zone ordinance” which sets up 10-foot-wide no-speech zones at every one of the dozens and dozens of healthcare facilities in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County.
The ACLJ is suing on behalf of Ed Harpring and Mary Kenney who have been sidewalk counseling outside the EMW clinic for decades.
They do not “protest.” They are not there to “demonstrate.” They say they are there to offer women alternatives to abortion by engaging in personal, caring, consensual conversations and distributing pamphlets and literature about various life-saving options.
Harpring says that at least 50 times a year, he and other counselors have been able to persuade women to change their minds about abortion, frequently on the last few steps of the public sidewalk just before they reach the clinic entrance.
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