Judge Orders ‘Buffer Zone’ Outside of Kentucky Abortion Clinic Ahead of Anti-Abortion Protests

In this Wednesday, July 19, 2017, photo, abortion opponents with a group called Operation Save America gather during a rally in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. DYLAN LOVAN / AP

Anti-abortion activists were ordered by a judge on Friday to stay away from a “buffer zone” outside Kentucky’s only abortion clinic, which is bracing for protests from a national group.

U.S. District Judge David J. Hale issued a temporary restraining order sought by federal prosecutors as a pre-emptive move ahead of vigils organized by Operation Save America, a Texas-based Christian fundamentalist group. The judge’s order is aimed at preventing abortion opponents from impeding access to EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

The order was aimed specifically at nearly a dozen anti-abortion activists who were arrested at a May demonstration when police said they blocked access to the downtown Louisville clinic. The judge’s action also applies to anyone else “acting in concert or participation” with them.

“With the conference coming we thought it would be good and make sure everyone is on the same page, know what you could and couldn’t do,” Maj. Eric Johnson with the Louisville Metro Police Department told CBS affiliate WLKY-TV ahead of the judge’s order. “Essentially what this act does, it prohibits blocking a person’s access to the entrance of a facility.”

The buffer zone in front of the clinic gives patients a “small measure of relief,” ensuring they can enter, said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“While the government may not keep people off the public sidewalk lightly, the individuals who blockaded EMW have a clear record of breaking the law,” she said. “No one should be prevented from a medical appointment by an egregious blockade of their health care provider.”

Rusty Thomas, national director of Operation Save America, responded: “We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to exercise our ministry on the sidewalk, and let the chips falls where they may.”

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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press