CNA Staff, Nov 18, 2020 / 19:01 pm
A law that curtailed pro-life outreach at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi has been repealed by the city of Jackson, leading to the dismissal of a legal challenge against the ordinance.
“This is a major victory for free speech for Jackson and the state of Mississippi,” Aaron Rice, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, told the NBC affiliate WLBT.
The ordinance, adopted in October 2019, prohibited 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 ordinance also prohibited 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.”
Violators of the ordinance faced a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in prison, or both.
The lawsuit, filed by Concord, N.C. resident Philip Benham, was joined by members of Sidewalk Advocates for Life – Jackson and the Mississippi Justice Institute. It said 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.
The appellants in the lawsuit were volunteers for Sidewalk Advocates for Life, and they often congregated outside the state’s last abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The facility performs abortions up to 16 weeks into pregnancy.
Sidewalk Advocates for Life said the outreach had success in Jackson in 2019, when 30 women turned away from the abortion clinic and sought alternatives in the area.