Chicago Sued Over Abortion Clinic “Bubble Zone” That Limits Pro-Life Free Speech

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Aug 22, 2016   |   6:29PM   |   Chicago, IL

Today, the Thomas More Society filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago over its abortion clinic “bubble zone” ordinance. The law makes it illegal to approach within 8 feet of someone who is walking towards an abortion clinic once they are within 50 feet of the entrance, unless that person  consents.

This confusing law is being challenged by the Pro-Life Action League and sidewalk counselors who reach out to women who may feel they have no option other than to end their baby’s life.

The complaint charges the City, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld with unconstitutionally curtailing  the rights of pro-life advocates. A press conference detailing the lawsuit is scheduled at noon (Central) on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, outside of a northside Chicago Planned Parenthood at LaSalle and Division. Speakers include: Thomas More Society Special Counsel Stephen Crampton, Pro-Life Action League Vice-President Ann Scheidler, and sidewalk counselor Veronica Price.

This civil rights action asserts  the unconstitutionality of the ‘bubble zone’ law under  the First and Fourteenth Amendments both on its face, and as applied by the Chicago Police  through selective enforcement owing to a misunderstanding of the law and also prejudice against pro-life counselors, which has caused false arrests and harassment of pro-life counselors and advocates.

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“The precious right of free speech — so central to our democracy —  is being denied to these individuals on the basis of their pro-life beliefs,” explained Thomas Olp, Senior Counsel at the Thomas More Society. “Pro-life advocates are being singled out and their Constitutional protections are being trampled by Chicago’s ‘bubble zone’ ordinance – a law created solely to discriminate against people who wish to offer abortion-bound women information about alternatives to abortion. No other business or industry is sheltered in this way. Through this law, the mayor and his administration are partnering with abortion vendors to violate the rights of those who wish to reach out to women seeking abortions.”

The court filing document case offers numerous Constitutional violations and other illegal abuses including:

  • Pro-life advocates being told by a policeman, upon challenging his application of the “bubble zone,” that if he was forced to  go get the ordinance from the station he would come back and arrest them.
  • Police determining and communicating to sidewalk counselors that they were not allowed within 150 feet of an abortion provider’s entrance.
  • Law enforcement personnel insisting that pro-life advocates could only hand literature to someone who asked for it and deciding that the ordinance prohibited any kind of verbal expression by sidewalk counselors.
  • Police imposing absolute and illegal buffer zones, telling sidewalk counselors that they were prohibited from approaching within 50 feet of the clinic entrance or with 8 feet of persons heading toward the clinic – even outside of the 50 feet “bubble zone.”
  • Officers stating that the ordinance banned sidewalk counselors from even standing within 8 feet of anyone approaching the abortion facility door.

The complaint also details several  wrongful arrests of pro-life sidewalk counselors under the “bubble zone” ordinance and cites rampant abuse of citizen rights without provocation.

Scheidler rallied the pro-life community, saying, “I feel confident we will prevail in court. Only two years ago, the
Supreme Court unanimously struck down a ‘buffer zone’ law in Massachusetts. Now it’s time for Chicago’s unconstitutional ‘bubble zone’ to burst.”