Protection for Abortion Patients: Ordinance

Proposal would enforce an "8-ft bubble" around patient and employees

By Susan Ball
|  Friday, Oct 2, 2009  |  Updated 2:47 PM CDT
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Proposal Response to Anti-Abortion Protests

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Pro Choice activist Lina Thorn (C) of World Can't Wait and Pro Life activist Amanda Lord (R) of the Christian Defense Coalition square off outside the Pepsi Center prior to the Democratic National Convention on August 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The city is preparing to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center from August 25th through the 28th.

Anti-abortion activists who attempt to dissuade women on their way in to abortion clinics will have to respect an "8-foot bubble" of personal space, the Chicago City Council committee ruled Thursday.

Due to a "significant surge in the size and viciousness" of attacks by anti-abortion activists, employees of Chicago-area hospitals, medical clinics and other health facilities would also be protected within a 50-feet protection zone within the grounds, according to Beth Kanter, a senior vice president with Planned Parenthood, who has called attention to violence at their Near North Health Center facility at Division and LaSalle since May 31 -- the day Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller was shot and killed.

"The local police have been very helpful," Kanter said, "but their hands are tied in what they are able to do without a local ordinance to enforce."

Kanter said protesters often masquerade as doctors, shout at hospital staff and videotape women seeking abortions, the Sun-Times reports.

"We have no issue with peaceful protests, praying or sidewalk counseling, as long as it does not block a clinic entrance or otherwise interfere with patients or staff," Kanter said.  "The problem is the overt, in-your-face tactics that Planned Parenthood's patients and staff endure regularly," she added.

"This is not about safety," said attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law center, "it's about shutting down a means of protest."

Breen, who is part of a national public interest law firm based in Chicago said, "We don't want to sue our hometown, but we will if this measure is passed."

This proposal, led by Ald. Vi Daley (43rd), has also angered abortion activists who say the proposed amendment to Chicago's disorderly conduct ordinance is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

"You cannot counsel a girl from 50 feet," said Catherine Mieding, an anti-abortion activist who claims she averages "three saves a Saturday" outside the Albany Medical Surgical Center.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said the 15-year activist.  "The closer we are to the person, the more compassion we can give to them... I have had girls get out of my car, cry in my arms and turn around a choose life," Mieding said.

"This regulation will just hinder us from one human being talking to another and trying to give a very frightened girl love, compassion and hope," Mieding said.  "Am I opposed to it?  With every fiber in my bone."

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