City leaders in Jackson, Mississippi approved an ordinance Tuesday to restrict pro-life advocates’ peaceful outreach to women outside the state’s only abortion facility.
Clarion Ledger reports the room was packed full of people when the Jackson City Council voted 3-1 on the buffer zone ordinance. Pro-life advocates spoke out strongly against it, but only Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote voted “no.” Several council members also were absent for the vote, according to the report.
“Mr. Mayor, if Jackson is going to be the radical city you want it to be, we need to embrace protest. I encourage others to vote against it,” Foote said.
The restrictive ordinance prohibits pro-lifers from coming within 15 feet of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion facility in Mississippi. It also creates an 8-foot personal bubble zone for patients to prevent interactions with pro-life sidewalk counselors.
The ordinance also restricts noise levels by prohibiting the amplification of sound within 100 feet of the abortion facility and banning shouting. According to the report, attorney for the city Tim Howard added the shouting amendment to the ordinance.
The measure applies to all health care facilities, but it came about because of contentions surrounding the abortion issue. Now, peaceful pro-life advocates could be punished for praying outside the abortion facility or handing a woman information about pregnancy resources in the city.
City leaders admitted that most pro-life protesters are peaceful, and pro-life advocates urged the council members to vote against the restriction of their free speech.
Barbara Beavers, a pro-life sidewalk counselor for four decades, explained how the ordinance could hurt women, too.
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She told the city council that some women are “undecided and unsure what to do” and appreciate the information that the pro-life sidewalk counselors provide, the report states. Beavers said some women even come back to thank them afterward.
A number of cities restrict pro-life advocates’ free speech through buffer zone ordinances. The city of Charleston, West Virginia, approved a similar ordinance in June. Some ordinances are facing legal challenges and others have been struck down in court, but abortion activists persist in lobbying for cities to pass them.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an important free speech victory for pro-lifers when it struck down a 35-foot buffer zone in Massachusetts.
Cities and states already have anti-harassment laws to prosecute protesters who engage in illegal activity. The extra laws and ordinances that pro-abortion politicians try to add around abortion facilities merely target pro-life free speech and the valuable information sidewalk counselors provide to patients.
Most pro-life sidewalk counselors are peaceful. They stand outside abortion facilities to pray and offer women information about alternatives to abortion. Pro-life groups like Sidewalk Counselors for Life and 40 Days for Life teach peaceful, compassionate, law-abiding outreach through their programs.
ACTION: Contact members of the Jackson City Council to complain by going here.