After hearing dozens of testimonies from both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates, the Spokane City Council adopted a noise ordinance last week that seems directly aimed at silencing a pro-life group which regularly meets outside a local Planned Parenthood. According to KREM-TV, the ordinance strengthens a pre-existing state law in which it’s illegal to “willfully or recklessly interfere with access to or from a health care facility” by “making noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.” It passed the city council with a vote of 6 to 1 but must be approved by the mayor before it goes into effect.
The measure was introduced by Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who has previously asked police to take action against the pro-life groups outside the abortion facility. After finding that police were hesitant to target the anti-abortion protestors, Kinnear rallied for the new noise ordinance. According to city documents, the new measure allows civil enforcement for a first violation, with escalating criminal penalties for additional violations. Patients can also bring lawsuits against pro-life protesters.
The pro-life group, which calls itself The Church at Planned Parenthood, regularly meets for prayer and worship services outside the facility, sometimes attracting hundreds of people. Planned Parenthood claims that the songs and prayers can be heard inside the building and they interfere with the patients.
While council members who supported the measure claim that it isn’t meant to stop people from praying outside of the abortion facility, local pro-life groups feel singled out by the ordinance, claiming that it violates their right to free speech. Pastor Ken Peters feels like his group is being targeted not for its noise, but for its message. “We really feel like they just don’t like us there, not that we’re disrupting. So we feel unfairly treated,” he told KREM-TV.
Students for Life of America also spoke out against the ordinance. “This ordinance directly targets pro-lifers in Spokane. We know that this is about one thing; making it harder for people to hear the truth about abortion and what happens inside abortion facilities every day,” said Karlie Lodjic, the group’s Washington Regional Coordinator. “As Millennials and Gen Z continue to be more pro-life than generations before them, pro-choice politicians are looking to weaponize the law against pro-lifers. This is a clear and direct assault on the First Amendment.”
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