Jackson, Miss., Oct 16, 2019 / 01:41 am
Pro-life advocates in Jackson, Mississippi have filed a lawsuit against a new city ordinance that would restrict protesters’ ability to approach people and demonstrate outside abortion clinics.
The appellants, who are volunteers for a national organization called Sidewalk Advocates for Life, often congregate outside the state’s last abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That facility performs abortions up to 16 weeks.
Sidewalk Advocates for Life trains volunteers to offer women alternatives to abortion, and says that nearly 7,000 women nationwide have freely chosen not to abort in the past five years thanks to their advocacy. They describe their ministry as “prayerful and peaceful.”
The ordinance prohibits protesters from approaching within eight feet of another person— unless that person consents— for the purpose of handing a leaflet, displaying a sign, engaging in oral protest, or educating or counseling a person within 100 feet of a healthcare facility.
The Jackson City Council adopted the ordinance Oct. 1, and it is scheduled to take effect Oct. 31, the AP reports.
The ordinance also prohibits congregations or demonstrations within 15 feet of a healthcare facility entrance, as well as shouting and amplified sound with 100 feet as long as the area is marked as a “quiet zone.”
The lawsuit, filed by members of Sidewalk Advocates for Life and the Mississippi Justice Institute, notes that pro-life protesters often have to shout in order to be heard above the loud music that the abortion clinic plays in order to drown out the protesters’ speech.
Violators of the new ordinance could face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in prison, or both.