COLUMBUS (WCMH) - Columbus City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday evening establishing 15-foot buffer zones at reproductive clinics, including Planned Parenthood locations.
Councilmember Elizabeth Brown sponsored the Healthcare Workers and Patients Protection ordinance.
It stops protesters from blocking and harassing patients and healthcare workers coming to and from the clinics.
"There is significant interest in protecting access to these clinics without fear of harassment and intimidation," said Council member Brown. "So we are elevating it from a misdemeanor of the fourth degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree."
Kayla Merchant, who supports the "buffer zone" law, remembers when she was nearly attacked by protestors at a Broad Street clinic.
"I was walking up to Founders Women's Clinic and suddenly I was surrounded by men, women and children," said Kayla. "They were close enough to where I could feel their breath on my neck. Their literature was hitting me in the face."
The ordinance is seen as bad news for pro-life organizations that claim to be helping clinic patients.
The Greater Columbus Right to Life has questions about the constitutionality of the "buffer zone" law.
Beth Vanderkooi serves the executive director. She said the people who the ordinance targets will fail to comply. Vanderkooi worries how this will affect the work her volunteers do just steps from clinic doors.
"What it will do however, is having a chilling impact on our volunteers who want to go out there and who want to be prayerful and peaceful," said Vanderkooi.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio released a statement shortly after council passed the ordinance.
"On behalf of our patients and their families, I would like to thank members of Columbus City Council for taking action that will directly improve the health and safety of women and men in Columbus, Ohio. Every person has the right to access health care safely and free of harassment, "said Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.
"We are living in a time when extremists are furthering vitriolic rhetoric that contributes to an aggressive climate for those seeking and providing reproductive health care, which includes safe and legal abortion services."What others are clicking on: