The Safety Committee of the Louisville Metro Council met for the second time to hear the thoughts and concerns of constituents regarding a potential safety zone in front of EMW Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only abortion clinic. Louisville’s Clinic Escorts encouraged our supporters to make it early, knowing this meeting was likely to be more heavily attended than the first. Sure enough, the room was quickly packed both with supporters of a safety zone and those opposed – though we probably outnumbered them.
As was the case last time, speakers were scheduled in advance, but LMPD were first called by the council for a description of their plans regarding the impending siege by outside extremist group Operation Save America/Operation Rescue. Major Eric Johnson explained that they had “a good working relationship” with OSA, and that OSA had assured them of their good behavior during the week. That would certainly be an about-face given the group’s history and rhetoric; I don’t think any of us feel particularly reassured by this.
Council Members Brent Ackerson, Barbara Sexton-Smith, and Brandon Coan asked Johnson about the free speech zones employed by LMPD for other events where there was a concern in advance that protest or counter protest might turn dangerously chaotic. Johnson explained that they simply didn’t feel this was necessary – again, presumably, based on OSA’s assertions that they will be well behaved. I fail to see how this fits with their past pattern of behavior, their “Lesser Magistrate Doctrine,” or even the rhetoric on display in front of the courthouse today. It was nice, at any rate, to see some Council Members asking for a little bit more in the way of reassurance, even if it wasn’t forthcoming.
After the Council was finished interviewing Johnson, they moved on to the scheduled speakers. Those opposed had been allotted four spots, and as there was a bit more time, a list was established for others to speak briefly if they wished. Speakers against included many faces that were familiar to us, and will likely be to you, too, if you’ve been following us for any length of time. Since the OSA group held a press conference outside immediately prior to the meeting, it appears most of them had to be content with the overflow room for the duration of the meeting, so the Louisville Metro Council was at least mostly hearing from Louisville folks.
Perhaps most exciting was that one of our folks who has been working on this project for more than a year now finally had the opportunity to speak and present today, after having been bumped from her scheduled spot at the previous meeting. Though the time was insufficient for her to get through the entirety of her presentation, copies were provided for each of the Council Members (and can be viewed by anyone here – Metro-Council-Safety-Committee-Meeting-July-19-2017-1 ). The materials help to give a very clear view of what the issue is: not speech, but behaviors and location.
The remarks of those opposed were unfortunately not particularly on topic. We knew that they wouldn’t be; listening felt rather like attending a Right to Life meeting as opposed to the meeting of a civil government body or, as one escort put it, “like being back in church again.” There was a good deal of rhetoric about “killing babies” and a good deal of religious commentary; one gentleman treated us to an explanation of how he’d put his flag away for years until Trump was elected. There was also some talk of immigrants, and the obligation of Western women to reproduce more – rhetoric that I always find deeply disturbing. Donna’s speech was the same one she delivers to the closed doors and windows of the clinic, Ed drew on the authority of the Church for his remarks but did not disclose that they pay him to be out there, and Vince Heuser criticized OSA’s antics without disclosing that he’s been representing them. Local news has covered the remarks of OSA and their supporters at their “press conference” outside quite thoroughly, so there’s no need to recap that for you.
It was all over the place, really. As of now, there is no actual proposal before the Metro Council to vote on; we continue to urge our supporters to contact their Council Person and ask for action (Glass Capitol). Meanwhile, we’ll continue doing what we do, in accordance with our long-established Points of Unity. We will continue to train for deescalation and nonengagement regardless of the provocation, and we will continue to remain client focused. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the antis do or say – it only matters what clients accessing care decide that they want. Someone has to respect that.
(If you were unable to attend the meeting, video can be viewed here.)