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Washington city adopts noise ordinance aimed at pro-life protests


'We know that this is about one thing; making it harder for people to hear the truth about abortion'

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Earlier this week, a city council in Washington state approved a noise ordinance aimed a quieting pro-life protests outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic, which pro-life activists say is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to pass a new noise ordinance after facing pressure to address the sound of pro-life protests outside a local Planned Parenthood clinic:

Council members who supported the measure stressed that it was not intended to restrict protesters' rights to march, hold signs and pray.

"All we're asking is that you keep the noise down to a reasonable level," said Councilwoman Karen Stratton.

Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, who co-sponsored the measure, said, "When noise outside your health care facility disrupts, prevents, or interferes with your ability to receive health care, it's completely unacceptable," according to KREM-TV.

The measure was proposed in part, the Associated Press note, because a pro-life group called the Church at Planned Parenthood has "regular gatherings" of demonstrators "who sing and pray outside of the clinic's walls" at events that "can draw hundreds of people."

However, Councilman Michael Cathcart — who cast the lone vote against the new ordinance — told the Spokesman-Review that he objected to the bill because noise is subjective and "it's too hard to interpret who's causing the noise," as well as a provision that would allow patients to sue protesters. The newspaper also noted that Cathcart was jeered by pro-abortion activists at the meeting.

According to city council documents, a first violation of the ordinance would result in a civil penalty with escalating criminal penalties for continued infractions that start with a $500 fine and/or 24 hours in jail.

Paul Dillon, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, called the measure's passage a "major victory" in a statement to KREM and said that the organization was looking forward "to the implementation and enforcement of the new changes to the noise ordinance with respect to health care facilities."

Naturally, pro-lifers are concerned about what the new law will mean for their ability to speak out for the unborn.

A recent blog post from Students for Life of America lamented that "the city will now be empowered to use police officers to shut up the hundreds of pro-life Christians who regularly pray outside a local Planned Parenthood abortion facility."

In the post, SFLA's Washington Regional Coordinator Karlie Lodjic said that the ordinance "specifically targets" pro-lifers with the goal to keep them quiet.

"We know that this is about one thing; making it harder for people to hear the truth about abortion and what happens inside abortion facilities every day," Lodjic added. "This is a clear and direct assault on the First Amendment."

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