Appeals court halts Louisville abortion clinic buffer zone

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court has temporarily barred the enforcement of a Louisville city ordinance that creates a buffer zone around health care centers, including a downtown abortion clinic that attracts protests.

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled the buffer zone infringes on the First Amendment rights of protesters who demonstrate in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center. The lawsuit challenging the buffer zone was brought by Sisters For Life and the Kentucky Right to Life Association, along with a few individual protesters.

The appeals court wrote in an opinion Wednesday the groups “wish to offer leaflets and compassionate, if sometimes unwelcome, speech to women entering abortion clinics” but the limits imposed by the city law “likely violate the First Amendment.”

The appeals court differed with a lower district court ruling that declined to impose an injunction on the buffer zone. Louisville’s Metro council passed the buffer zone ordinance in May 2021.

Abortions in most cases have been halted in Kentucky after a near-total ban took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The state’s ban is being challenged by abortion rights supporters and arguments in the case were heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court last month.

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