Council Amends, Approves Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Ordinance
Columbus City Council last night approved an ordinance creating a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, with the penalty for violators being a first-degree misdemeanor. But sponsoring council member Elizabeth Brown amended the ordinance to bring it in line with the city's disorderly conduct law, after police expressed concern about the enforceability of the original proposal, which contained the words "following and harassing" in describing what sorts of behavior the measure governs. Brown says the words were replaced with "disorderly conduct" to explain what behavior could result in a violation.
The ordinance makes it illegal to block or obstruct a patient or worker from entering or exiting a clinic, touching a patient or worker, or behaving in a way that puts a patient or worker in fear of harm. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sided with protestors in saying the measure restricts free speech rights. The city says the measure does not penalize peaceful verbal expressions or protests within the zone, and does not penalize prayer vigils within the zone. ACLU lobbyist Gary Daniels says he can't comment on the amendment because he has not studied it.
The measure takes effect in 30 days. Council also voted to send the city's proposed 950 million dollar bond package to the Franklin County Auditor's office to calculate the necessary millage. City Auditor Hugh Dorrian says like past bond packages, this one is not a tax increase.
If approved by voters this fall, the bond package would fund a slew of capital improvements projects.