The ordinance passed in a close 14-11 vote with four Metro Council Democrats joining all seven Republicans in voting no.
"We had hoped that the hearts and intellects of the members who express concern for safety would show true concern for vulnerable women about to make a decision that will affect them throughout their lives," said Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life. "To quote Mother Theresa, 'Abortion is a crime that not only kills the child but also the conscience of all involved.'"
The legislation applies to all medical clinics within the city but the ordinance is clearly centered on the EMW Women's Surgical Center in downtown Louisville — one of the city's only clinics performing abortions. It would allow a 10-foot-wide buffer zone that could be placed around clinics.
People would be prohibited from obstructing the entrance to or from the facility and stop people from entering, lingering or creating any obstruction in the 10-foot zone, the ordinance reads.
Demonstrators or counselors would have to stay 10-feet from the door, according to the legislation.
"We at Kentucky Right to Life are committed to protecting the lives of the unborn and the health and safety of women," Wuchner said. "This vote denies women the compassionate walk-beside-you help that is needed at this critical moment. Many women do not realize that there is help available for them and their babies."
Many of the same people who demonstrate at the clinic marched in prayer outside council chambers, encouraging council members to vote no.
"The sidewalk counselors are there to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech but, more importantly, they assure the woman that she is not alone, compassionately extending information on alternatives and support resources as they try to save the life of her unborn child," Wuchner said.
It was the second time the ordinance had come up for debate. It was defeated last August in another narrow vote, but this time passed following hours of debate by the council. Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong and several colleagues crafted the legislation, saying the demonstrations had become too much.
Pro-life organizers have loudly disagreed with the assessment, saying they pray peacefully for the mothers and their babies. They say a buffer zone infringes on their First Amendment rights.
"The Council members who voted for the buffer zone seem not to realize that every life has intrinsic value and the child deserves our compassion as much as the mother," Wuchner said.
Dr. Ernest Marshall, founder of the EMW Women's Surgical Center, told WDRB the legislation was welcomed.
"Medically speaking, and first and foremost, our patients are psychologically damaged by the blocking, harassment, taunts and stalking for over a block when they are trying to enter our office," Marshall said. "This is extremely stressful and they express they are afraid on a public sidewalk."
Violators would receive one written warning, followed by a citation and a monetary fine of $150 to $500. If convicted a second time within one year of a previous violation, the person would face a fine of $250 to $500.