Chicago "Bubble Zone" Law Sees First Pro-Lifers Charged Opposing Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
July 27, 2010
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — The first pro-life person has been charged under the new bubble zone law in Chicago that local citizens say has robbed them of their free speech rights outside abortion centers. The city council approved the new last October and pro-life groups say it targets those who provide women abortion alternatives.
Thomas More Society attorney Peter Breen entered a "not guilty" plea in court Tuesday morning on behalf of Joseph Holland, who was charged with disorderly conduct.
Holland, a Northwestern University graduate student, was praying the rosary on a public sidewalk outside the Planned Parenthood Near North abortion facility on July 3 when staff called the police, claiming that he had violated the new ordinance.
The "Bubble Zone" ordinance prohibits approaching within eight feet of a person without their consent "for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling."
The law establishes a 50-foot buffer outside the entrances of abortion centers and, within that zone, no one can come within an 8-foot zone to distribute literature, counsel or display a sign.
According to witnesses and video taken of the incident, Holland was engaged solely in prayer activity and not in leafleting, picketing or "sidewalk counseling.
"This arrest was about one thing: trying to scare pro-life people away from Planned Parenthood," said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive director and legal counsel.
He told LifeNews.com, "Joe Holland did nothing wrong — his only ‘crime’ was having the temerity to exercise his First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk. We look forward to defending Joe and others like him against the City of Chicago’s false charges."
During consideration of the new ordinance, Breen presented testimony that the "Bubble Zone" ordinance is unconstitutional, a position with which the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois agreed.
Thomas More Society attorneys today also served subpoenas on Planned Parenthood for security footage of the alleged disorderly conduct and on the City of Chicago for the 911 tapes of the calls placed by Planned Parenthood.
The Thomas More Society is also representing David Avignone, the second arrestee under the "Bubble Zone" ordinance. Holland’s next appearance is August 3, and Avignone’s first appearance will be August 30.
The new bubble zone law subjects pro-life advocates to a $500 fine for merely talking to women considering abortion outside an abortion facility.
This sort of peaceful and lawful conduct on public sidewalks in front of abortion clinics is protected by the First Amendment," Breen told LifeNews.com previously. "This is not about safety," he said. "It’s about shutting down a means of protest. We don’t want to sue our hometown, but we will if this measure is passed."
Related web sites:
Thomas More Society – https://www.thomasmoresociety.org
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