Jackson, Mississippi Repeals Law to Stop Pro-Life Protests Outside of State’s Only Abortion Business

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 18, 2020   |   7:12PM   |   Jackson, MS

In a victory for life Tuesday, the city council in Jackson, Mississippi voted to repeal an ordinance that restricted pro-life free speech outside the only abortion facility in the state.

The AP reports the Jackson City Council voted unanimously to repeal the 2019 buffer zone ordinance after pro-life sidewalk counselors sued the city.

“We are pleased that the city of Jackson has decided to do the right thing and end this unconstitutional restriction on free expression,” said Mississippi Justice Institute director Aaron Rice in a statement. “This is a major victory for free speech for Jackson and the state of Mississippi.”

Rice’s organization sued the city on behalf of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a pro-life organization dedicated to peaceful outreach to mothers and fathers outside abortion facilities, Magnolia State Live reports. Since it began six years ago, the organization has helped save 10,000 babies from abortion.

In Jackson, however, the city ordinance hindered their outreach to families outside Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion facility in Mississippi.

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According to the report, the ordinance prohibited people from “oral protest, education or counseling” within 15 feet of the entrance to a health care facility and prohibited amplified sound within 100 feet of the property line. It also banned anyone from coming within 8 feet of another person without their permission. Those who violated the ordinance could face a $1,000 fine or jail time.

The ordinance technically applied to all health care facilities in Jackson, but it really targeted pro-lifers. As a result, peaceful pro-life advocates could have been punished for praying outside the abortion facility or handing a woman information about pregnancy resources in the city.

The victory Tuesday may be temporary. According to the AP, City Council President Aaron Banks promised to take new action to “guarantee safety and that individuals aren’t harassed.”

Pro-lifers are overwhelmingly peaceful and compassionate. Jackson sidewalk counselors Barbara Beavers and Monica Cable said their desire is to help women make good decisions for themselves and their babies.

“Many come to the sidewalk undecided and we need to be there to provide resources available to them and try to convince them that they can be a parent. We need to be on that sidewalk,” Beavers said last year.

“We just want to provide that information. We want to educate, empower and equip women to make a better decision,” Cable added.

Meanwhile, Diane Derzis, who owns the abortion facility, slammed the city council members for their unwillingness to “do the right thing.”

“We’re not willing to do it for the women who walk in that door or the women who work in the clinic or the people who walk on the street or the businesses that are nearby,” Derzis said, referring to city leaders.

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.

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. However, courts have upheld smaller buffer zones.

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.