Thursday July 29, 2010

Chicago’s ‘Bubble Zone’ Lands Praying Pro-Lifer in Court

By Peter J. Smith

CHICAGO, July 29, 2010 ( – A pro-life protestor, arrested while praying his rosary in front of a Chicago Planned Parenthood, is pleading “not guilty” to charges that he violated Chicago’s “bubble zone” ordinance which protects abortion clinics.

Joseph Holland, a Northwestern University graduate student, was arrested by police on a charge of disorderly conduct on July 3. Staff at Planned Parenthood Near North’s abortion clinic called police, alleging that Holland was violating a city ordinance passed late 2009, which prohibits individuals in the 50 foot radius of an abortion clinic from approaching within eight feet of its clients, without consent, “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling.”

Holland is represented by the Thomas More Society (TMS), a public advocacy group. On Wednesday, TMS attorney Peter Breen entered a “not guilty” plea to the charges on Holland’s behalf.

TMS argues that Holland was engaged solely in prayer activity, standing next to the entrance of the Planned Parenthood clinic, and that both witnesses and available video attest to that. Holland’s attorneys have also served Planned Parenthood a subpoena demanding security footage proving the pro-life advocate’s alleged crime, and also subpoenaed the City of Chicago for the recording of Planned Parenthood’s 911 call.

“This arrest was about one thing: trying to scare pro-life people away from Planned Parenthood,” said Peter Breen, TMS executive director and legal counsel. “Joe Holland did nothing wrong – his only ‘crime’ was having the temerity to exercise his First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk. We look forward to defending Joe and others like him against the City of Chicago’s false charges.”

Breen and TMS have argued that the “Bubble Zone” ordinance is unconstitutional, and have even gained the support of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on that issue.

According to pro-life advocates with the Pro-Life Action League, police have previously misinterpreted the ordinance, getting their interpretation of the law from Planned Parenthood employees. In January, an officer told pro-life counselors that they could not come within eight feet of the Planned Parenthood doorway.

Again, in February one officer told sidewalk counselors not to come “within ten feet of the doorway … that’s panhandling.”

Pro-Life Action League’s projects coordinator, Corrina Gura, previously described the situation, saying that Planned Parenthood gives “the officers their version of what they wish the law said, then they ask the police to enforce their imaginary law.”

Holland will next appear in court August 3. Another pro-life advocate, David Avignone, also arrested under the “Bubble Zone” ordinance, is being represented by TMS and has a court date of August 30.

See related coverage by

Pro-Lifers Burst Planned Parenthood’s Inflated Version of Bubble Zone Law

Rockford Pro-Lifers Fight ‘Bubble Zone’ Law Protecting Notorious Abortion Facility

Deluge of Pro-Life Protest after Chicago Bubble Zone Law Passes

Bursting the Bubble: Pro-life Advocates Fight Chicago Law Aimed to Kill 40 Days for Life Vigil


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