Toledo Pro-Lifers Face Muzzling of First Amendment Rights

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 8, 2017   

City council seeks to make it a misdemeanor to protest within 20 feet of an abortion mill

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TOLEDO, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Toledo city council is considering a new city ordinance designed to keep pro-life advocates away from Toledo's two abortion mills.

The ordinance, proposed on July 10 and called "Impeding Access to Health Care," would make it a misdemeanor offense for pro-life advocates to physically block access to an abortion facility.

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It also forbids pro-life advocates from "Engag[ing] in a course of conduct within twenty feet of the premises of a Health Care Facility or Reproductive Health Care Facility when that behavior places another person in reasonable fear of physical harm."

Pro-life advocates are crying foul over the rule, noting there are already laws making it illegal to harass people outside of abortion mills.

Jeff Barefoot, president of Greater Toledo Right to Life (GTRL), called it "a criminal ordinance in search of a perpetrator." He noted to Church Militant that, so far, no protesters have been charged or arrested for harassing women seeking abortions.

He adds that the ordinance doesn't define what "reasonable fear of physical harm" is and that it can be interpreted subjectively.

They're being prayed to, they're being harassed on a regular basis, and they come in, and they're mentally hurt.

Abortion mill worker, Schuyler Beckwith, commented women seeking abortions at the Capital Care Network facility "are being screamed at, and they're being accosted with photographs that depict images that are not accurate about what we do at the clinic." She goes on to complain, "They're being prayed to, they're being harassed on a regular basis, and they come in, and they're mentally hurt."

Ed Sitter, executive director of Greater Toledo Right to Life, slammed the law as "unnecessary," calling it a "direct assault on an individual's freedom of speech and of assembly."

Greater Toledo Right to Life asserts, "Regardless of personal beliefs, this is an issue of free speech." The group asserts, "Sharing one's views in the public domain without physically threatening or harming anyone is a constitutional right." 

The legislation was sponsored by Steven Steel, the president of the city council and a staunch abortion activist. The ordinance is expected to be put forward for a vote on August 30.

Pro-life advocates are asking Toledo residents to phone their city council member to voice their disagreement with the proposed ordinance.

Greater Toledo Right to Life is hosting a petition, asking people to vote "No" at the next meeting.

 

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Rodney Pelletier

Rodney Pelletier is a staff writer for ChurchMilitant.com.

Follow Rodney on Twitter: @RodPelletier