JACKSON, October 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Jackson City Council voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance banning pro-life activists from protesting near abortion facilities, effectively establishing a “bubble zone” around the last abortion facility in Mississippi.
The ordinance forbids picketing within fifteen feet of a facility, coming within eight feet of people entering or exiting the building, and erecting speaker systems within 100 feet. Violators face fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 90 days in prison. The ordinance passed by a 3-1 vote.
With 3-1 vote, Jackson City Council passes ordinance that would establish buffer zones/safe zones near health care facilities, particularly the state’s only abortion clinic in Fondren. #wlbt pic.twitter.com/zhjoZCXN3M
— C.J. LeMaster (@CJLeMaster) October 1, 2019
Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce commissioner Andy Gipson, a Republican, lamented the vote as a blow for free speech:
It’s a very sad day that a majority of the Jackson City Council has voted to restrict the free speech of peaceful sidewalk counselors near the State’s only abortion clinic. I appreciate those who opposed this unnecessary ordinance.
— Commissioner Andy Gipson (@CommAndyGipson) October 1, 2019
The biggest effect of the new ordinance will be to shield Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which operates the state’s last abortion facility in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood. The facility has been a source of questions and controversy for years, from allegedly failing to report chemical abortions to the 2018 birth of a baby to a woman at the facility for a consulation, raising questions as to just how late Jackson WHO would have committed her abortion.
“Proponents of the regulation have cited noise complaints and the potential for heightened conflict as the reasoning behind the legislation,” the Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) wrote. “However, opponents of the regulation have noted that the noise is often escalated by the abortion center who will turn up music while sidewalk participants attempt to speak with those around the abortion center and that the regulation curtails their free speech rights.”
“At the end of the day, the abortion center can paint itself bright pink colors, play music, and attempt to be a part of the more hip, growing Fondren community, but it can’t cover up what happens inside its walls, a continued dark stain on the neighborhood and the city,” MCPP declared.