Ohio Lawmakers Trying to Deny Pro-Life People Free Speech at Abortion Clinics

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 9, 2015   |   4:53PM   |   Columbus, OH

Two pro-abortion lawmakers in Ohio announced new legislation today that would create buffer zones around abortion clinics and restrict pro-lifers’ freedom of speech.

House Bill 408, unveiled today by Ohio state Reps. Stephanie Howse and Michele Lepore-Hagan, would create a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Ohio. The bill also would allow abortion clinic patients, doctors or staff who believe they are victims of harassment to sue protesters using pseudonyms instead of their real names, the Toledo Blade reports.

Lepore-Hagan, a Democrat, told WCMH News that the bill was prompted by a violent attack near a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in November that left three dead and nine injured.

“The horrific violence at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs show that this bill is needed now more than ever,” Lepore-Hagan said.

Though authorities still have not released details about alleged Colorado Springs shooter Robert L. Dear’s motives, abortion advocates quickly jumped onto the tragedy and blamed the pro-life movement for the violence. According to those who knew him, Dear was a mentally ill loner who had no connection to the pro-life movement.

“In the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy in Colorado, abortion advocates are using a strategy straight from the playbook of radicals: Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, in reaction to the proposed legislation. “How much more offensive and incendiary can one get than to compare praying pro-lifers who shudder at the thought of ripping a child limb from limb to a madman who has no respect for human life?

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“Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the pro-abortion politicians who are hurling these slurs have revealed their hypocrisy. The obvious irony is that they are using inflammatory rhetoric to condemn inflammatory rhetoric,” Krider continued.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio supports the bill. Its executive director, Kellie Copeland, bashed pro-life legislators during a news conference today, saying that they had contributed to the rhetoric that fueled harassment of abortion clinics in and outside of Ohio, according to the Toledo Blade.

Copeland said the bill is modeled after a buffer zone law that was upheld as constitutional by a New York Court. However, several supporters of the bill told ABC 6 News that they do not expect the measure to pass out of committee.

The pro-life group Created Equal also released a comment about how the new legislation attacks our freedom of speech.

Mark Harrington, national director of the group, said, “Abortion advocates are desperate to stop pro-lifers from lawfully opposing abortion because they are losing the debate. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was accused by the city officials in Birmingham, Alabama of fomenting violence because of his peaceful direct action campaigns, he responded, ‘It is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.’

“We will not be bullied by abortion advocates to surrender one of our most basic liberties – our freedom of speech,” Harrington said.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a buffer zone law in Massachusetts last year. Saying the abortion buffer zone is “inconsistent with the First Amendment,” the Supreme Court ruled that that the buffer zone violated the First Amendment because it “restricts access to ‘public way[s]’ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech activities.”

Buffer zones not only wrongly target pro-life sidewalk counselors, but they also can prevent women from accessing information about their unborn baby and the life-affirming resources that are available to help them choose life.