SPOKANE, Washington, March 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life activists in Spokane, Washington could be cited for noise complaints for their demonstrations outside of abortion facilities, according to a new ordinance just passed by the City Council.
The ordinance bans any “disturbances” that could be construed as interfering “with the safe and effective delivery of health services within the building,” the Spokesman-Review reports. Violators would first receive a warning to cease the “disturbance,” and if they don’t comply they would face a $500 fine and a day in jail, with the punishments for repeat offenses increasing in severity.
Additionally, the ordinance grants individuals allegedly impacted by such “disturbances,” such as abortionists, a “private right of action” to sue pro-life activists in court.
“All we’re asking is that you keep the noise down to a reasonable level,” Councilwoman Karen Stratton said in support of the ordinance, which passed 6-1.
Councilman Michael Cathcart, the sole dissenting vote, expressed concern that the measure would penalize people for subjective judgment calls, especially in cases when “it’s too hard to interpret who’s causing the noise.”
In response to such concerns, the Washington Attorney General’s office wrote a letter to city law enforcement officials cautioning the city to be “viewpoint neutral” in enforcing the ordinance. At the same time, it concluded that protesters’ behavior or noise level need merely be “unreasonable to an ordinary person seeking health services,” which pro-lifers fear leaves sufficient wiggle room endanger any speech an abortion seeker dislikes.
The ordinance was brought in response to ongoing protests of an area Planned Parenthood facility organized by the pro-life group the Church at Planned Parenthood, which regularly draws sizeable protests and counter-protests. Planned Parenthood staffers and customers complain that the protests can be heard from inside the building, causing bother and distraction as they abort babies.
“This ordinance directly targets pro-lifers in Spokane,” Students for Life Washington regional coordinator Karlie Lodjic responded. “We know that this is about one thing; making it harder for people to hear the truth about abortion and what happens inside abortion facilities every day. As Millennials and Gen Z continue to be more pro-life than generations before them, [pro-abortion] politicians are looking to weaponize the law against pro-lifers. This is a clear and direct assault on the First Amendment.”