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Anti-abortion groups challenge Louisville buffer zone law

June 9, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this July 17, 2017 file photo, escort volunteers line up outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Ky., the state's only abortion clinic. Anti-abortion groups are challenging a new Louisville law that creates a buffer zone around medical centers. It bars protesters from an area in front of a downtown abortion clinic. The new law passed by the Louisville Metro Council last May 2021 creates a 10-foot-wide zone outside healthcare facilities, including the EMW Women’s clinic. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan, File)
FILE - In this July 17, 2017 file photo, escort volunteers line up outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Ky., the state's only abortion clinic. Anti-abortion groups are challenging a new Louisville law that creates a buffer zone around medical centers. It bars protesters from an area in front of a downtown abortion clinic. The new law passed by the Louisville Metro Council last May 2021 creates a 10-foot-wide zone outside healthcare facilities, including the EMW Women’s clinic. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anti-abortion groups are challenging a new Louisville law that creates a buffer zone to keep protesters from an area in front of a downtown abortion clinic.

The new law passed by the Louisville Metro Council last month creates a 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) zone outside health care facilities, including the EMW Women’s clinic. The downtown facility routinely draws sidewalk protests from anti-abortion advocates.

The Sisters for Life, its founder Angela Minter and the Kentucky Right to Life filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, arguing the buffer zone violates the groups’ free speech rights. The groups said they intended to violate the new law.

The founder of the EMW clinic has said women entering the facility have been subjected to harassment, taunts and stalking for years by anti-abortion activists gathering on the sidewalk.

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The lawsuit argues that the buffer law effectively forces protesters to gather across the street, placing limits on the groups’ “sidewalk ministry.”

“The city of Louisville should know better than to pass this flagrantly unconstitutional ordinance and we look forward to having it struck down,” Chris Wiest, who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement.

On Tuesday the two sides agreed to an order barring enforcement of the new law until July 16.

City officials and the Jefferson County Attorney’s office have declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Violators of the buffer law would first be issued a warning, then a citation and a fine of up to $500.