National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Ohio city passes 'buffer zone' ordinance

The Columbus City Council in a unanimous vote on Monday approved an amended ordinance that will create a 15-foot "buffer zone" around reproductive health clinics and other health care facilities, the Columbus Dispatch reports (Sullivan, Columbus Dispatch, 6/20).

The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

Ordinance details

City Council Member Elizabeth Brown (D) proposed the measure (Letizia, WCBE, 6/21). An earlier version of the ordinance used the phrase "following and harassing" to describe the behavior the measure would outlaw (Columbus Dispatch, 6/20). According to WCBE, the phrase was replaced with "disorderly conduct" to clarify what actions could be penalized (WCBE, 6/21).

Specifically, the ordinance prohibits anyone from blocking, touching or grabbing a person who is entering or exiting an abortion clinic. In addition, the ordinance bars anyone from conducting "repeated acts that place a person [at a clinic] in reasonable fear or physical harm."

A person who violates the ordinance could face a first-degree misdemeanor charge for disorderly conduct, entailing up to six months jail time and a $1,000 fine. In contrast, someone penalized for disorderly conduct elsewhere could face a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge, entailing up to 30 days of imprisonment and a fine of $250.

Comments

Brown stated, "My goal is to make sure that women can access their health care and that clinic workers can access their jobs, and that they can do those things without intimidation and violence." She noted, "There is no other medical situation where strangers feel entitled to impose their will on someone else."

Separately, Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said, "We are living in a time when extremists are furthering vitriolic rhetoric that contributes to an aggressive climate for those seeking and providing reproductive health care, which includes safe and legal abortion services" (Columbus Dispatch, 6/20).