Pro-life organizations take on buffer zone ordinance in lawsuit

Attorneys reach temporary agreement until July 16 to review briefs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Louisville’s new buffer zone ordinance violates free speech and religious freedom, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by two pro-life organizations.


Angela Minter and her organization, Sisters For Life, and the Kentucky Right to Life Association, is asking for injunctive relief in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court.


The parties believe the ordinance prohibits the sidewalk ministry from practicing their religious freedoms for half a city block. It will not be enforced until July 16 to allow the attorneys involved to complete briefings.


Attorney Chris Wiest, who represents the Sisters For Life and Kentucky Right to Life, said, “I consider this a win in the first round because it allows the ministry to continue.”


Addia Wuchner, the executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, was pleased with the temporary agreement “as we prepare for a full hearing in Western District Court. As a pro-life, pro-women organization, we believe the sidewalk ministry plays an important role in a woman’s right to have fully informed consent.”


Sisters For Life regularly ministers to women at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the state’s most active abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood is also licsensed to do abortions.


In 2019, EMW performed 99.5% of abortions in Kentucky. In the lawsuit, Minter and Sisters For Live said they “saved 800 babies from having their lives cut short by ministering to women and their parents and revealing wither life choices” available to them besides abortion.


Sisters For Life says it is essential to minister to people on the sidewalk outside of the abortion clinic.


“Necessarily, this sidewalk ministry is not loud, obnoxious or confrontational,” the lawsuit reads. “Nor is the sidewalk ministry a protest or meant or intended to block access to the clinic — the message and ministry are a final intervention with women who are often in crisis and believe they have no alternative to abortion.” 


The lawsuit said Sisters for Life and the Kentucky Right to Life Association planned to protest within the buffer zone, regardless of the legislation. 


“Plaintiffs, for their part, intend to violate the ordinance on a regular and systemic basis, each and every day that EMW is open for business, including engaging in their sidewalk ministry within the buffer zone, each and every one of those days,” it said. 


Sisters For Life believes there are other choices besides abortion, including adoption, free housing during and after pregnancy, free child care, free help with college tuition if they choose not to abort, parenting resources including diapers, formula, clothes, parenting classes, counseling and more. They also offer information about child development that shows parents how developed their child is at various stages of pregnancy.


On May 20, the Metro Council passed the ordinance in a 14-11 divided vote prohibiting the sidewalk ministry from practicing their religious freedoms for half a city block claiming it is a “buffer zone” to EMW’s property.


The lawsuit is filed against Louisville Metro, Mayor Greg Fisher, Louisville Metro Police Chief Ericka Shields, and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell against Louisville’s new “buffer zone” ordinance, on the grounds that the new ordinance violates their free speech rights and prohibits them from practicing their faith.

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