US appeals court blocks Louisville abortion clinic buffer zone ordinance News
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US appeals court blocks Louisville abortion clinic buffer zone ordinance

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Wednesday blocked the enforcement of a Louisville ordinance that prevented the obstruction of healthcare facilities by individuals. The ordinance creates a buffer zone between any healthcare facility—often a clinic that provides abortion—and those protesting in its vicinity, stating that such individuals have to stand on the closest adjacent sidewalk and ten feet away from the entrance.

The court ruled Wednesday in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that the ten-foot buffer limits the free speech rights of individuals protesting at abortion clinics. The court also reasoned that the abortion clinics at which the plaintiffs repeatedly protest could seek injunctions against the individual plaintiffs to prevent obstruction of the facilities, and that the purpose of the plaintiffs’ actions at the clinics are not to be loud or violent but to “offer a compassionate ear.”

The decision is the latest in a case brought by Sisters for Life, the Kentucky Right to Life Association and individual pro-life activists in June 2021. Plaintiffs argue that the ordinance, which prohibits individuals and groups from obstructing, detaining, impeding or blocking the entry or exit of a healthcare facility, limits their speech under the First Amendment, as it places a limit on their proximity to abortion clinics while protesting. However, Women’s Law Project Staff Attorney Maggie Neely says, “buffer zones reduce the risk of violent encounters and help ensure that staff can safely provide and patients can safely access necessary health care.”