Pro-life group to sue Chicago over ‘bubble zone’ law targeting sidewalk counselors
CHICAGO, Illinois, August 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A pro-life group plans to file a lawsuit against the city of Chicago over its unclear “bubble zone” law that makes it difficult for sidewalk counselors to speak with abortion-bound mothers.
The Pro-Life Action League will file a lawsuit on Tuesday against the regulation, which makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion facility without their consent once they’re within 50 feet of the entrance, executive director Eric Scheidler told LifeSiteNews.
Scheidler told LifeSiteNews that Chicago police frequently interpret the law in different ways.
“As soon as it was enacted, it immediately began to be badly enforced by the police,” Scheidler explained. “It’s a confusing ordinance. Even to describe it is to sow confusion.”
The law was passed “shortly after the killing of George Tiller, so it was a real opportunist kind of a thing,” Scheidler said. Abortion supporters “exploited that particular tragedy in order to try to … get more protection for the abortion clinics in Chicago from having clients be talked out of abortion by sidewalk counselors.”
But there was “absolutely no reason whatsoever” for the law, Scheidler said. “The sidewalk counseling and pro-life activity going on in Chicago [at the time] was singularly peaceful.”
When the Pro-Life Action League first began opposing the law, even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was on their side, Scheidler said, because they acknowledged it was an infringement on free speech rights.
The law means that “if you’re within 50 feet of an abortion clinic entrance, which is vaguely defined — are we talking about the parking lot entrance, the door, are we talking about the property line? — then you have to have permission to get closer than eight feet to anyone approaching the facility,” Scheidler said. “So there’s a moving eight-foot bubble within this stationary fifty-foot bubble,” which itself is ill-defined.
Police frequently use this law to threaten pro-life sidewalk counselors with arrest, Scheidler said, and since it took effect, three sidewalk counselors have been arrested. All three cases were dismissed. One of these was “literally a little old woman who was arrested for supposedly violating the bubble zone and hadn’t done a darn thing.”
Scheidler said there are two issues at hand: whether this kind of bubble zone is constitutional in the first place, and whether the law is being unjustly applied to target pro-lifers.
In 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around Massachusetts abortion facilities.
“As applied, this law is targeting people unjustly because it’s so rarely applied correctly … the police are causing trouble for people who are out there simply trying to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Scheidler said. He noted that police don’t enforce this bubble zone against abortion supporters.
“We have video evidence of this,” he said. The law isn’t’ “applied equally.”
Pro-aborts “really think of this as their personal law for harassing pro-lifers … again and again and again, abortion clinic staff and personnel, volunteers, clinic escorts have misapplied the law, have called the cops on people who aren’t doing anything wrong” and make false claims.
“I think it was deliberately made to be confusing,” Scheidler said.
At noon Tuesday, the Pro-Life Action League will hold a protest and press conference outside the Chicago Planned Parenthood on N. LaSalle St.