Judge or­ders buf­fer at Ken­tucky clinic

Rul­ing pre­cedes anti-abor­tion vig­ils

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - BRUCE SCHREINER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An­tiabor­tion ac­tivists were or­dered by a judge Fri­day to stay away from a “buf­fer zone” out­side Ken­tucky’s only abor­tion clinic, which is brac­ing for protests this week­end by a na­tional group.

U.S. District Judge David Hale is­sued a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der that fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors sought as a pre-emp­tive move ahead of vig­ils or­ga­nized by Op­er­a­tion Save Amer­ica, a Texas-based Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ist group. The judge’s or­der is aimed at pre­vent­ing abor­tion op­po­nents from im­ped­ing ac­cess to EMW Women’s Sur­gi­cal Cen­ter in Louisville.

The or­der was aimed specif­i­cally at nearly a dozen anti-abor­tion ac­tivists who were ar­rested in May af­ter, po­lice said, they blocked ac­cess to the down­town clinic. The judge’s ac­tion also ap­plies to any­one else “act­ing in con­cert or par­tic­i­pa­tion” with them.

The buf­fer zone in front of the clinic gives pa­tients a “small mea­sure of re­lief,” en­sur­ing they can en­ter, said Brigitte Amiri, an at­tor­ney for the ACLU Re­pro­duc­tive Free­dom Pro­ject.

“While the gov­ern­ment may not keep peo­ple off the pub­lic side­walk lightly, the in­di­vid­u­als who block­aded EMW have a clear record of break­ing the law,” she said. “No one should be pre­vented from a med­i­cal ap­point­ment by an egre­gious block­ade of their health care provider.”

Op­er­a­tion Save Amer­ica Di­rec­tor Rusty Thomas re­sponded: “We’re go­ing to do what we al­ways do. We’re go­ing to ex­er­cise our min­istry on the side­walk and let the chips falls where they may.”

Thomas’ group is tar­get­ing the Louisville clinic with the goal of mak­ing Ken­tucky a na­tional model in its push to end abor­tion.

He later said his group does not in­tend to use the same tac­tics that led to the May ar­rests.

“For­tu­nately, we do not see that any­thing in Judge Hale’s or­der hin­ders any of our planned, law­ful, First Amend­ment ac­tiv­i­ties to min­is­ter,” Thomas said in a state­ment.

U.S. At­tor­ney John Kuhn Jr. had cited a fed­eral law guar­an­tee­ing ac­cess to clinic en­trances in re­quest­ing the judge’s or­der to cre­ate a “nar­rowly tai­lored buf­fer zone” out­side the clinic.

“The small buf­fer zone is de­signed to pro­tect both the rights of in­di­vid­u­als seek­ing ac­cess to EMW and the pro­tected First Amend­ment rights of in­di­vid­u­als wish­ing to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with EMW’s pa­tients and providers,” Kuhn’s of­fice said in a state­ment.

The judge’s or­der comes as sup­port­ers of Op­er­a­tion Save Amer­ica de­scended on Louisville for week­long vig­ils start­ing this week­end. They’re plan­ning vig­ils out­side the clinic and else­where in the city, in­clud­ing the neigh­bor­hoods where the clinic’s doc­tors live, or­ga­niz­ers said.

The buf­fer zone is di­rectly out­side the sur­gi­cal cen­ter’s entrance, be­tween clinic prop­erty and the curb­side pa­tient drop-off zone, Hale’s rul­ing said. The bound­aries are about 15 feet from north to south and about 7.5 feet from east to west, it said.

Hale said his or­der’s re­stric­tions within the buf­fer zone ap­ply only dur­ing the clinic’s hours of op­er­a­tion, plus two hours be­fore and af­ter.

“This tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der does not re­strict any of the rights of the de­fen­dants, in­clud­ing their First Amend­ment rights, out­side the zone,” the judge said.

He or­dered the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice to post his or­der at the clinic.

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