Catholics oppose buffer zone around Kentucky’s last abortion clinic
Crowds at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. JEFF BRUNO
Louisville, Ky., – Pro-life activists in the Archdiocese of Louisville have spoken out against a city ordinance which resulted in the creation of a temporary buffer zone outside Kentucky’s only facility where abortions can be procured.
The 15-by-7.5 foot buffer zone outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center was proposed last week and implemented on a temporary basis Friday. A federal judge is expected to rule today whether it will remain permanently.
The pro-life activists cite concerns that the ordinance would prevent women seeking abortions from obtaining all information necessary for a decision, as it would restrict the activities of sidewalk counselors.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville sent a statement to the July 19 Metro Council meeting that discussed the buffer zone before its implementation.
“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,” the archbishop said in his statement. He also noted their goal is to “support the mother and child whenever possible.”
His statement was read by Ed Harpring, who has been a sidewalk counselor for 33 years. Harpring detailed his “call to the sidewalk,” which he said came after seeing ultrasound images of his oldest daughter.
“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,” he said, as reported by the archdiocesan newspaper The Record.
Harpring expressed concern that the buffer zone would impede his ability to inform women of their alternatives. He refers women seeking abortions to the pregnancy center A Women’s Choice, next door to EMW. The center’s resources include free ultrasounds, as well as financial, medical, mental, and spiritual help during pregnancy.
Patricia Horton, a director of Louisville Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, also spoke at the meeting. Horton’s group prays in front of clinics.
“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,” she said. “You cannot make good decisions without information.” She also expressed concerned at her group’s right to free expression being curtailed.
The buffer zone began as a temporary measure on Friday in anticipation of a meeting of Operation Save America (OSA), a fundamentalist group protesting abortion in the state this week. The U.S. Attorney’s office in the city had filed a motion three days prior to enforce the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bars protestors from blocking those seeking to enter abortion clinics.
The order comes after 11 people from OSA were arrested outside the clinic in May for blocking the clinic’s entrance, according to the Courier-Journal.
“The Lord filled me with his peace and I knew I was obeying his will,” said Eva Zastrow, one of those arrested, in speaking to the Courier-Journal. “I chose to sit in front of the doors, I’m not going to balk from the consequences. I’m not going to complain or regret it.”
As a result of the arrests, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep those arrested and their affiliates away from the clinic entrance. That restraining order led to Friday’s buffer zone.
As part of its week of abortion protests in the city, OSA plans to set up a JumboTron downtown to display an abortion procedure.
Louisville is seen as a key location in the fight against abortion, as it is home to the last clinic in Kentucky that performs abortions. Other clinics have been shut down due to a law requiring that clinics have hospital admitting privileges.