6th Circuit sides with pro-lifers in fight over Kentucky abortion clinic’s ‘buffer zones’

By Dave Andrusko

The 6th Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a 10 foot “buffer zone” around the EMW Abortion Clinic established by a Louisville metro ordinance violates the First Amendment. Addia Wuchner, RN, Executive Director of Kentucky Right to Life, called the decision “A Christmas Gift of Life.”

She wrote “Kentucky Right to Life, Sisters for Life and all those who serve in ministry of life are extremely appreciative of the Opinion handed down on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, from the United States Court of Appeals – 6th Circuit.

After more than a year of an imposed restriction on the ministry of sidewalk counseling that was offered to women as they entered and departed the EMW Abortion Clinic in Louisville, the Court affirmed the impact the City of Louisville’s Buffer Zone Ordinance had on free speech.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton and the Court recognized the critical elements of the practice of ‘sidewalk counseling’— the quiet, compassionate, non-threatening, one-on-one conversations where dedicated sidewalk counselors reach out to convince EMW’s patients that there are life-saving alternatives to abortion. The practice of sidewalk counseling has always been to come alongside and accompany the woman in whatever way she may need.

We were blessed to be represented by our dedicated legal counsel, attorneys Chris Wiest and Frank Manion, who never wavered in their commitment to vindicate their collective clients’ prolife ministries.

Sisters for Life, Angela Minter, Ed Harpring, Mary Kenny and all those who serve the ministry of sidewalk counseling continue our mission of ‘loving them both’: offering compassion and hope, walking with women and restoring a culture that welcomes and support life.

Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Sutton wrote “Sisters for Life, several individuals, and another pro-life organization wish to offer leaflets and compassionate, if sometimes unwelcome, speech to women entering abortion clinics in Louisville, Kentucky….But Louisville-Jefferson County limited their speaking and pamphleteering in buffer zones near the entrance of each clinic. Because these limits likely violate the First Amendment… we preliminarily enjoin them.”

“Keep in mind,” the ruling went on, “that the goal of the plaintiffs is not to harass or protest, whether loudly or violently. The point of their speech is to offer a compassionate ear…To this day, it remains unclear why the County has sought to suppress their speech along with those types of protests that are far more likely to hinder access to a clinic and are sometimes designed to do just that.”

Winfrey explained that “The case now returns to the Western District of Kentucky with instructions for the court to prevent Louisville from enforcing the buffer zone ordinance.”