By James Tillman and Peter J. Smith
CHICAGO, IL, October 7, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Chicago City Council is currently considering an amendment which would create a 50 foot bubble zone for protestors around abortion mills, and thereby cripple the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil.
Within this 50 foot zone, pro-life protestors would be prohibited from approaching closer than 8 feet to a person without their consent, in order to educate, counsel, or give leaflets to them. Violations could be punished by a fine of up to $500.00.
The amendment to the city's Disorderly Conduct Ordinance was introduced by Chicago Alderman Vi Daley on September 9. On September 30 the amendment passed committee. Planned Parenthood of Illinois praised its passage as balancing “the need to protect patient and staff safety while preserving the freedom of speech.”
Ann and Joseph Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League also attended the committee meeting. According to Ann, Alderman Toomey, who managed the meeting, gave extensive time to Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters, but was not nearly so generous with pro-life advocates.
Beth Kanter of Planned Parenthood testified that pro-life protestors make it difficult for women to reach their “services,” while Katherine Rabbit of Family Planning Associates directly mentioned the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil as one of the reasons to pass the bill.
Family Planning Associates, which performs third-trimester abortions, has been losing business thanks to the peaceful pro-life witness of the 40 Days for Life campaign in Chicago. The fall 40 Days for Life campaign has so far saved the lives of at least 154 babies across North America, partly by the effect of a constant prayer vigil outside of abortion mills.
Ann Scheidler says she believes the real goal of the ordinance is to scare pro-life advocates away from the sidewalks in order to save abortion facilities by protecting their business. Pro-abortion advocates have invoked the murder of George Tiller to defend their claims that the ordinance is needed, but Scheidler points out that they have had no incidents of any kind like that with the pro-life community in Chicago – a city which is reeling these past few weeks from gang violence and murders in broad daylight. In addition, Tiller was slain by a mentally disturbed anti-abortion anarchist inside his home church in Wichita, and not at his abortion facility.
The proposed ordinance is modeled after a yet sterner measure passed in Colorado, which established a 100 foot buffer zone. This measure was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2000, in Hill v. Colorado. Similar laws have been passed in Canada, where several pro-lifers have been arrested inside of these bubble zones.
The ACLU has issued a statement which, while approving aspects of the bill, opposes the 8-foot buffer zone on the grounds that “Our society should tolerate the widest amount of free speech in public ways.” The buffer zone, the statement says, substantially burdens “leafleting, a time honored and unintrusive form of speech.”
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life law center, applauded the ACLU, which generally works against traditional faith and family values, for standing up for freedom of speech in America.
The Thomas More Society, which is based in Chicago, has worked against the passage of this amendment. Thomas More Society Executive Director Peter Breen testified before the committee on September 30. Breen stated, “We don't want to sue our hometown, but we will if this measure is passed.”
The City Council began to consider the ordinance on October 7, 2009 at 10 A.M.
To contact the Mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley: