Anti-abortion group sues to remove Carbondale’s buffer zone

The group claims a 100-foot distance from the city’s clinics is a violation of free speech.
Coalition Life Executive Director Brian Westbrook speaking at a press conference announcing Coalition Life’s lawsuit against Carbondale’s clinic buffer zone. Screen capture from livestream.

CARBONDALE – A group calling itself Coalition Life is suing the city of Carbondale over its new buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.

Carbondale has become the home of two clinics providing abortion services since the overturn of Roe v. Wade last year. The city’s position in far southern Illinois and accepting community has made it a sanctuary for services as the nearby states of Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana have passed restrictive abortion laws.

The Southern Illinoisan reported that Coalition Life had filed suit in U.S. District Court against a new ordinance that creates a 100-foot buffer zone around the city’s clinics.

The ordinance, passed in January, bars:

Knowingly approaching another person within eight feet of such person, unless such other person consents, for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way within a radius of 100 feet from any entrance door to a hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility, or

By force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injuring, intimidating or interfering with or attempting to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility.

The ordinance also includes general public safety and is not focused only on clinic access.

The St. Louis-based organization filed the suit on Tuesday, May 16. Calling the zone “irrational and unreasonably large,” they claim it interferes with their freedom of speech. The suit is calling for an injunction against the ordinance. They announced the lawsuit in a livestreamed press conference at Carbondale City Hall.

The ordinance does not bar protests, it just mandates a distance from medical facilities.

In an email statement to The Southern Illinoisan, Public Relations Officer Roni LeForge-Croxell said, “On May 16, 2023, the City of Carbondale was informed that Coalition Life intends to seek injunctive and declaratory relief from Carbondale City Ordinance No. 2023-03. Although no formal complaint has been received by the City at this time, it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”

Illinois state law guarantees access to reproductive health services.

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