Archbishop expresses disappointment in buffer zone vote

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed disappointment after the Louisville Metro Council passed a new local ordinance that he said could limit the ability of pro-life advocates to offer alternatives to women seeking abortions.

Under the ordinance, passed by the council on May 20, a healthcare facility such as an abortion clinic may request a 10-foot buffer zone to be marked outside its entrances. The general public will be prohibited from obstructing the area or otherwise be in the area except to enter or exit the facility or to pass through the area to reach another destination.

“I am disappointed in the decision of the Metro Council to utilize buffer zones at the abortion clinic in Louisville,” the archbishop said in a May 24 statement. “As someone who has peacefully and prayerfully participated in public witness at this clinic, I can speak firsthand about the good work of sidewalk counselors and the ways in which these buffer zones will hinder their ministry.”

“These courageous men and women respectfully seek to assist women in choosing life for their unborn children by offering resources and assistance. I believe that buffer zones could harm vulnerable women who need our help and restrict the first amendment rights of sidewalk counselors offering a life-saving alternative to abortion.”

Sidewalk counselors in Louisville try to offer alternatives to pregnant women as they approach the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, a clinic that provides abortions and the epicenter of the buffer zone debate. The sidewalk outside the center sometimes draws a crowd — some protesting abortion and others supporting women entering the clinic.

Sidewalk counselors, another group, try to offer support and alternatives, said Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville. They usually start at the end of the block, well outside the new buffer zone, but continue offering their message as they approach the entrance.

Typically, Harpring said in an interview in August — the last time the buffer zone came up for a vote and failed — it’s the last thing he says in those last few seconds near the door that changes her mind.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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