Eliminating sex discrimination through research, education and legal activities
Columbus, Ohio — Tonight, Columbus City Council unanimously voted to approve Ordinance 1458, introduced by Councilmember Elizabeth Brown. The ordinance prohibits harassment of patients and staff outside reproductive health centers across the city, including two abortion providers.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle testified in support of the ordinance at a meeting last week. Tonight, she offered the following statement: “When harassment and intimidation is ignored it escalates to violence. Tonight, we saw Councilmember Elizabeth Brown and the rest of City Council work to prevent violence against women and men entering abortion clinics and other health care facilities. We don’t want to see violent confrontations like what happened in Colorado Springs develop in our city. This ordinance strikes an appropriate balance between our constitutionally protected right to free speech and our government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of its citizens. This ordinance is constitutional, this ordinance is needed, and this ordinance is the right thing for our city and all of its citizens.”
Under the ordinance, no person may physically obstruct or block another person from entering into or exiting a reproductive health care facility. Individuals are also prohibited from following and harassing anyone within fifteen feet of the premises of a reproductive health care facility. Whoever violates this ordinance is guilty of impeding access to reproductive health care, a misdemeanor of the first degree on a first offense.
Despite misleading testimony from anti-abortion groups suggesting otherwise, demonstrators will only be in violation of the law if they engage in obstruction or harassment. Peaceful protest, signs, and prayer continue to be protected free speech.