Last week in Kentucky, the Louisville metro council passed a safety zone ordinance that will create a safety buffer zone outside of health care clinics, including the EMW Women’s Surgical Center which is one of only two abortion clinics in the state and has been the target of ongoing anti-abortion protests.
The new measure provides a ten-foot area in front of the entrance to the health care facility where people are not allowed to gather, providing space for patients and providers to enter and exit without being harassed by anti-abortion protestors.
“For more than thirty years, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project, which I direct, has worked with reproductive health care providers, local, state and federal elected officials, community organizations, and law enforcement to protect clinics, providers, staff, and patients from anti-abortion harassment and violence, while respecting the rights of those who lawfully choose to protest against abortion. We also periodically publish national clinic violence surveys. I have traveled to and worked in communities across the country, including many cities in the South. In my opinion, EMW Women’s Surgical Center patients, staff, volunteers and Louisville’s downtown community experience some of the most egregious anti-abortion harassment, intimidation, and interference in the country,” said duVergne Gaines, director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project in a statement to the Louisville city council.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center was Kentucky’s sole abortion clinic for nearly a decade and has experienced an onslaught of protests and harassment that have created a fearful environment for both patients and providers at the clinic. Some of the more distressing incidents include physical assaults, violence, bomb threats, and a clinic blockade in 2017 that resulted in a federal judge creating a temporary safety zone that was enforced by U.S. marshals.
“Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates commends the Louisville Metro Council for passing the Louisville Safety Zone, a simple and long overdue step toward ensuring patient protection. Without safety zones, patients are subjected unnecessarily to harassment, stigmatization, and shame for seeking basic health care services, including abortion,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “Access to this essential and time sensitive care is more important than ever given the Supreme Court’s decision this week to consider a case that directly challenges Roe v Wade. Our public health is being politicized to score political points and patients continue to pay the price. This small space will provide safer access to health care facilities and help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Public safety and increasing access to health care should be a priority for all community leaders, especially during a pandemic. We hope to see other cities across our commonwealth follow Louisville’s lead. Abortion is a legal right in Kentucky and we must do everything we can to protect patient access to it and other essential health care.”