Chicago politicians, responding quickly to the demands of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion industry player, have adopted a new restrictive ordinance that targets pro-life protesters – just as the latest 40 Days for Life campaign reaches its midpoint.
Map of the campaign locations for the fall 2009 “40 Days for Life”
The ordinance, opposed by both the Catholic Church and the American Civil Liberties Union, was adopted by a split city council yesterday and provides $500 fines for pro-life protesters who approach within eight feet of someone going into or leaving a “health care facility.”
It was modeled after a Colorado law that gives abortionists similar protections in that state.
“You know a law is an improper intrusion on First Amendment rights when even the American Civil Liberties Union sides with pro-life interests in opposing certain aspects of a legislative action,” said David Bereit, national director of the 40 Days for Life campaign.
“Such is the case with the new bubble zone ordinance, approved Wednesday by Chicago’s city council, which unconstitutionally restricts the peaceful activities of pro-life individuals on the sidewalk in front of abortion facilities in an attempt to cripple the ongoing 40 Days for Life prayer vigils,” he said.
He said the ordinance not only could block sidewalk counseling and the display of pro-life signs within 50 feet of all entrances to abortion businesses, it also could prevent any pro-life person from being within eight feet of an abortion customer without getting that person’s permission.
“This is a serious attack on free speech, and backers specifically cited ’40 Days for Life’ in city council hearings as the reason for this measure,” said Bereit.
“We are asking anyone who loves free speech to call the office of Mayor Richard Daley and ask the mayor to please veto the bubble zone ordinance before it takes effect.”
He said the telephone number for the Chicago mayor’s office is 312-744-3300, and the response from pro-life protesters was so strong that city officials already have set up a telephone survey at that number giving people the opportunity to support or oppose the plan.
Pro-life organizers said that at the downtown Chicago Planned Parenthood location, for instance, the ordinance could block any “40 Days for Life” vigil from the public right-of-way adjacent to the business. Sidewalks there make it virtually impossible for prayer vigil participants to be more than eight feet away from abortion customers without stepping into the busy street.
“Additionally, if someone were praying out loud, it could be interpreted as ‘education’ or ‘counseling’ and thus trigger the provisions of the ordinance,” pro-life protest organizers said.
Bereit said the biggest chilling effect is that “most pro-life Chicagoans will simply not know what they can or can’t do without risk of a fine, and will thus be forced to stay far away from the abortion center or not come at all – the abortion industry’s desired effect. The bottom line is that if pro-life Americans don’t push back, more situations like this will happen all across the country and our rights will be trampled on more and more by the abortion industry.”
The Chicago ordinance was championed by Alderman Vi Daley “at the behest of Planned Parenthood,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The campaign “40 Days for Life” is the largest and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history. Its current campaign, from Sept. 23 to Nov. 1, is running in 212 cities across 45 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces and in Denmark.
The initiative consists of 40 days of intense prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities and grass-roots community organizing.
A video describes the biblical foundations for the work:
The organization reports that as a result of its spring 2009 campaign, in 135 cities across the U.S., Canada, Australia and Northern Ireland, and earlier smaller campaigns, at least 1,517 babies have been spared death from abortion businesses.
The organization said more than 200,000 people have taken part, more than 4,000 churches have worked on the project, at least 17 clinic workers have quit their work and three abortion facilities have closed their doors following “40 days” campaigns.