December 28, 2022

6th Circuit Blocks Louisville, Kentucky Buffer Zone Ordinance

On Dec 21, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Louisville, Kentucky ordinance banning sidewalk counseling outside EMW Women's Surgical Center (the only abortion clinic in the city) "likely violate[s] the first amendment" and placed an injunction blocking its enforcement.

The buffer zone ordinance has been in place for over a year.

In the court's opinion, Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote,
“Sisters for Life, several individuals, and another pro-life organization wish to offer leaflets and compassionate, if sometimes unwelcome, speech to women entering abortion clinics in Louisville, Kentucky….But Louisville-Jefferson County limited their speaking and pamphleteering in buffer zones near the entrance of each clinic. Because these limits likely violate the First Amendment… we preliminarily enjoin them.”

Kentucky Right to Life Executive Director Addia Wuchner responded joyfully in a press release:

"Judge Jeffrey Sutton and the Court recognized the critical elements of the practice of ‘sidewalk counseling’— the quiet, compassionate, non-threatening, one-on-one conversations where dedicated sidewalk counselors reach out to convince EMW’s patients that there are life-saving alternatives to abortion. The practice of sidewalk counseling has always been to come alongside and accompany the woman in whatever way she may need."

The case now returns to the Western District of Kentucky, but the ordinance will be rendered unenforceable while the case proceeds.