New Bill Would Create a Buffer Zone for St. Louis' Only Abortion Clinic


  • Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood
Days after a longtime pro-life activist was arrested for allegedly threatening a worker at the state's lone abortion clinic, a St. Louis alderwoman says she will introduce legislation to create a buffer zone between protesters and patients.

Christine Ingrassia, the alderwoman for the city's sixth ward, says she plans to introduce legislation next week modeled on a law in Colorado, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. The court struck down a 35-foot buffer in Massachusetts, but left intact one in Colorado that was about one-fourth of its size.

Ingrassia says she hopes to enshrine in city ordinances an eight-foot zone around the entrance and those spots within 100 feet of the doorway.

"We do believe they have a right to protest," she says. "But we need to find a way to balance that right with the comfort and safety of those people who use the clinic."

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri has staffed volunteer "escorts" at the clinic for decades. Recently, harassment of escorts, staff and prospective patients has escalated, says its executive director, Alison Dreith, with protesters reaching into cars or trying to direct patrons to alternate "crisis pregnancy" centers. "These acts of violence have been on the rise," she says. She believes Ingrassia's plan could make a difference.

Ingrassia says she will also introduce legislation to enshrine in local ordinances a version of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The law, which makes it a crime to intimidate patients or staff, would give local police a tool to investigate threats or actions at the clinic — one that's currently only available to the FBI. Having to call in the feds, Ingrassia says, "is not an expedient way to address a local problem."

Ingrassia's proposals won't be the only abortion-related bills the Board of Aldermen will consider this winter. Fifteenth Ward Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green is sponsoring a measure to add pregnancy and reproductive health decisions to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

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