St. Louis Defeats Measure to Take Away Free Speech Rights of People Who Pray Outside Abortion Clinics

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 17, 2018   |   11:52AM   |   St. Louis, MO

Missouri pro-lifers won a free speech victory Monday when St. Louis rejected a proposed buffer zone outside abortion facilities.

The bill, sponsored by Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia of the 6th Ward, would have created an 8-foot buffer zone to prohibit free speech around abortion facilities and health care clinics in the city.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the bill initially received a slim majority support in February, but it failed Monday in a 9-15 vote. Some aldermen switched their votes, while others were not present when the vote took place, according to the report.

Alderman Pam Boyd of the 27th Ward voted against the bill after voicing concerns about unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

“You can’t pick and choose who can protest. It’s the First Amendment for everyone,” Boyd said.

Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the Respect Life Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, celebrated the vote and what it means for women and babies.

“Our work of prayer and presence will continue because we know that women facing difficult or unplanned pregnancies need real options and support, not abortion,” she said in a statement.

Buffer zones not only prevent free speech, they also block pro-lifers from offering life-affirming information and support to pregnant moms. Often it is information that women will not receive inside an abortion facility, including the material support available to them and their babies, the risks of an abortion and the facts about their unborn baby’s development.

St. Louis Public Radio reports more:

Four aldermen who were initially supportive of the measure voted against its final passage, including Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward. He said a demonstration in his ward at a store that is the center of drug use and violence showed him that protest sometimes needs to take place in close quarters. …

People who are passionate about stopping women from having abortions should be able to do the same, he said.

“If they aren’t able to get close enough to the vehicle to stop you, then the people out there kind of don’t get the message across. They do have to scream it across the street,” he said.

Though the bill failed, abortion activists with NARAL and Planned Parenthood indicated that they will try again soon.

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Brian Westbrook, executive director of Coalition For Life St. Louis, said they are prepared to “fight to the end.”

“We want to thank the Aldermen and Alderwomen who stood up against this attack on our first amendment rights to freedom of speech, especially to those who disagree with us on the abortion issue,” Westbrook said.

“Make no mistake: while this is a huge victory, Planned Parenthood and their friends will continue to pursue even more restrictive efforts to limit our speech. While BB34 was defeated today, we fully expect this bill or a similar one to be filed again next session,” he continued.

The St. Louis Planned Parenthood has one of the worst reputations in the country. According to Operation Rescue, which tracks ambulance calls and abortion clinic health violations, the St. Louis facility has hospitalized at least 65 patients with abortion complications since 2009. In addition, state health inspectors reported 39 classes of violations involving 210 incidents between 2009 and 2016.

Pro-life advocates have been fighting against city and state buffer zones for years. In 2014, pro-lifers won a huge victory when the United States Supreme Court unanimously struck down a 35-foot Massachusetts buffer zone law.