The pro-life group Created Equal is warning that new legislation before the Columbus, Ohio, City Council would “criminalize pro-life speech at abortion facilities city-wide.”
The official summary of the proposed ordinance says it would prohibit physically obstructing people from the entrances of abortion facilities, threatening or engaging in violence or other unwanted physical contact, “following or harassing” people within fifteen feet of a facility, or any other conduct within fifteen feet of a facility that “places another person in reasonable fear of physical harm.”
Created Equal contends that last provision would enable abortion facilities to stifle peaceful protests and sidewalk counseling by classifying it as “harassment.”
“Abortion advocates failed to censor pro-life speech in the Ohio legislature this session so now they are turning to a friendly city council to do their dirty work,” the group says. “Gagging pro-life speech outside killing centers is blatantly unconstitutional and shows their desperation to crush any dissent to abortion.”
Catherine Short, Vice President of Legal Affairs for the Life Legal Defense Foundation, agrees that the ordinance “is an invitation to unconstitutional enforcement by police officers who aren’t adequately trained in the area of First Amendment freedoms” because it does not clearly define “harass” and “follow,” and has no “saving language that prohibits the civil and criminal penalties from being imposed on constitutionally protected activity.”
In response, Created Equal led protests of the proposal this morning outside Planned Parenthood, E. Main St. and Founders Women’s Center in Columbus.