Sidewalk counselors oppose ‘buffer zone’

Ed Harpring, center, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, spoke to Peggy Strange and Parnell Minter following the Louisville Metro Council meeting July 19. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Ed Harpring, center, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, spoke to Peggy Strange and Parnell Minter following the Louisville Metro Council meeting July 19. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Members of the Louisville Metro Council met July 19 to consider a possible ordinance that would create a 20-foot buffer zone around the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville.

Opponents of the possible ordinance said that such a law would prohibit women who are seeking an abortion from receiving all the information needed to make the life or death decision.

Among those who addressed the council during the meeting was Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Harpring opened his three-minute address by reading a statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in which he expressed his concern over how a buffer zone would “improperly restrict the right of free expression.”

“I have always counseled that our pro-life efforts should be courageous, compassionate, and civil and that activities at abortion clinics be conducted in a prayerful, peaceful, and respectful manner that includes respect for just laws,” said Archbishop Kurtz in the statement. “We also always seek to support the mother and unborn child whenever possible, and we have many ministries through Catholic Charities, parishes, and other agencies that provide tangible support to parents and their unborn children.”

Harpring went on to tell council members that he has been a sidewalk counselor for 33 years. He said that his “call to the sidewalk” came after viewing the “amazing, beautiful” images of his first child during an ultrasound.

His eldest daughter is now 32-years-old, said Harpring. “It was one of those God moments where we were so happy and looking forward to being parents,” said Harpring to his listeners.  “But then I felt that God was asking me about the other children in the womb at that same age — who might not ever see the light of day, the children that are losing their lives to abortion.”

Harpring said that a buffer zone would impact his ability to do what he’s been doing for more than three decades.

As a sidewalk counselor Harpring said he walks alongside women considering abortion and let them know there are “life-saving alternatives” at A Woman’s Choice pregnancy resource center at First and Market streets, next door to the EMW center.

Harpring said he lets women know that there are free ultrasounds, counseling, medical, spiritual and financial help and people to “mentor” them during and after the pregnancy. “A buffer zone would significantly intrude our ability to walk alongside these women,” said Harpring to the council.

Patricia Horton, one of the directors of Louisville Helpers of God’s Precious Infants spoke at the Metro Council meeting voicing a similar concern. Horton said the group is a local chapter of an international ministry whose mission is to provide a prayerful presence outside abortion clinics.

“Our ministry is a prayer ministry. We stand on the street and carry no signs, we speak to no one, but the Lord God Almighty,” said Horton.

The helpers pray for the women going in, their partners, their family, their babies and the people who work in the abortion clinics.

“This is the USA and I hope that no one is going to tell me I can’t stand on a public sidewalk and pray for people.”

Horton, who said she’d been praying outside abortion clinics since the mid-1980s, noted that she’s seldom seen anyone block women from entering abortion clinics.

A buffer zone would impact not only her rights but the right of women to get all the information they need before getting an abortion.

“I know that when I have important decisions to make if it’s buying a home, having a hip replacement surgery or dying my hair we all want information,” said Horton. “You cannot make good decisions without information. Blocking these sidewalks counselors, you are not giving women an opportunity to get information.”

The council made it clear that no legislation for a buffer zone has been filed and that the meeting was only a discussion.

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