Madison city counsel considers ban on protest and counseling within 160 feet of abortion centers

Students stand in silence before Planned Parenthood abortion clinic -- Photo credit: Bethany Bolen

Students stand in silence before Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. – Photo credit: Bethany Bolen

The City of Madison is considering an ordinance that would create an area of 160 feet in which those entering the Madison abortion clinic could not be approached. Prohibited actions would include handing out information, holding a sign, or engaging in “oral protest, education or counseling with the person.” The proposed fine for violation of this ordinance is $300 for the first “offense,” $500 for the second, and $750 for the third.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Wednesday in a buffer zone case from Massachusetts, McCullen v. Coakley. That case involved only a 35-foot buffer zone, compared to the 160-foot zone Madison is proposing. If passed, the constitutionality of the Madison buffer zone will likely be challenged, as it poses serious threats to protected First-Amendment speech.

Gwen Finnegan, director of Vigil for life, finds this buffer zone proposal to be unfortunate:

We’re not protesting with anger or hate. We’re out there because we care. We care about everyone going to Planned Parenthood, especially the young mothers who are pregnant and feel there is no other option.

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