.- Objections from pro-life advocates have prompted Rockford, Illinois city officials to reconsider a proposed abortion clinic “bubble zone” ordinance. The critics cited free speech concerns and argued the ordinance would defend the anti-Christian “bigotry” displayed by clinic staff.
The Chicago-based Thomas More Society had sent a letter to Rockford’s mayor and aldermen which argued the law was an unconstitutional violation of protesters’ free speech. The letter also claimed the proposal was “anti-choice” because it would deprive expectant mothers of a genuine chance to make a fully informed decision.
The Society noted that Illinois' Labor Dispute Act precludes municipal regulation of labor picketing and would render the “bubble zone” discriminatory on the basis of viewpoint and thus illegal.
Local pro-life advocates argued the ordinance would overlook and validate the display of obscene images and harassment of protesters at the Northern Illinois Women's Center.
The abortion clinic’s window has shown anti-Christian symbols including images of Jesus Christ making an obscene gesture with the words "Even Jesus Hates You." The clinic has also shown a nun doll in a miniature casket, along with hand drawn signs attacking priests and other pro-life sidewalk counselors as HIV-positive child molesters.
Pro-life advocate Kevin Rilott in a letter to the city asked whether the clinic’s “bigotry” is the kind the Rockford city council wants to “protect, promote, and defend” with its bubble zone ordinance.
His pending civil lawsuit, Rilott v. Rockford et al, alleges hate crimes by the abortion clinic proprietor, Wayne Webster, and his ally, Keith Sterkeson. The suit also alleges defacement of a pro-life "bus bench" ad by a Rockford bus driver.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, reported that pro-life advocates had been involved in federal litigation with the clinic proprietor for two years. The proposed ordinance represented a “major setback” but his organization was “pleased” that discussions about its “patent illegality” and negative impact are proceeding.
“This two month delay is a legal victory, albeit a modest one, as prospects for passage of the bubble zone proposal have been dimmed, if not wholly curtailed. We trust that City council members will carefully reconsider this unwise, unwelcome, ill-timed and illicit proposal.”