by Chantal Cowie January 27, 2014
City of Madison officials have proposed a new ordinance to prevent anti-abortion protesters from harassing women entering or leaving Planned Parenthood clinics.
Ald. Lisa Subeck, District 1, said she wrote the ordinance aimed at protecting women entering and leaving Planned Parenthood from anti-abortion protestors to make sure patients can receive health care with a sense of privacy and safety.
For years, women who have been trying to access women’s health care services have been challenged by anti-abortion protestors who believe they have a right to harass women, Subeck said.
Subeck said protestors often hand out pamphlets of information to women going into the clinic filled with information about abortion and health care that are not medically true. These sidewalk counselors do not have any formal counseling training and are there for the sole purpose of trying to interfere with women and health care, she said.
Subeck said protestors often come to the window of women’s cars or walk up to them on the sidewalk on their way into the clinic. This can be “incredibly intimidating” for the women and makes it difficult for them to continue into the clinic without stopping, she said.
“This is just plain harassment,” Subeck said.
Subeck said one of the beneficial parts of the ordinance is the establishment a 160-foot protective zone around the clinic. Subeck said within this zone, protestors may not get any closer than eight feet from the individual going into the clinic unless they receive permission from them.
Director of Legislation for Pro-Life Wisconsin Education Task Force, Inc., Matt Sande, said this ordinance is “clearly impeding” the First Amendment rights of the protestors.
“This type of buffer zone does not reflect who we are as Madisonians. We should not try to muzzle each other because we do not agree with each other’s viewpoints,” Sande said.
Sande said his organization believes there is no moral or medical justification for intentionally killing an unborn child. For protest, Sande said his organization prays and has trained sidewalk counselors that hand out information to women to help them reconsider their decision to abort their child.
According to Sande, the organization is opposed to any violence and focused on being peaceful and prayerful. Sande said this ordinance has “come out of nowhere” because his organization has worked with the authorities and respected private property. The organization is categorically opposed to the buffer zone, no matter what the size of the radius of it is, he said.
Subeck said this ordinance creates a balance that allows people to have freedom of speech rights and continue to protest, while providing individuals the ability to access health care without fear of intimidation or harassment.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said protestors would argue that they are trying to provide education to women who are walking into Planned Parenthood. However, Resnick said people should have the right to receive medical procedures without being troubled and he is in support of the ordinance.