Chicago City Council Passes Buffer Zone Ordinance

Julia Fedor

The Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance establishing a buffer zone outside all medical facilities to protect health care workers, volunteers, and patients from harassment and obstruction.

On October 7, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance establishing a buffer zone outside all medical facilities to protect health care workers, volunteers, and patients from harassment and obstruction.

A week earlier, the Chicago City Council Human Relations Committee passed the ordinance, sponsored by Aldeman Vi Daley (D-43), to create a 50-foot zone outside the entrance of health clinics and hospitals, an area in which all individuals would need permission to come within 8 feet of another person. Violations would result in a fine of up to $500. The full City Council voted 28-13 in favor of the ordinance. Here is a list of how all the Chicago aldermen voted on the measure.

People seeking medical care at health facilities that perform abortions often face protesters outside, some of whom use intimidating and threatening tactics. In fact, Planned Parenthood of Illinois reports a significant increase in the number and aggressiveness of protesters since the May 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas. The buffer zone ordinance is intended to protect patients as well as staff and volunteers from any form of harassment. Meanwhile, the zone still preserves the right to free speech by allowing people to protest peacefully from a safe distance.

Accessing health care can be a challenge for men and women of all ages. Youth, in particular, often face many hurdles to access sexual and reproductive health care — insurance coverage, transportation, and confidentiality, to name a few. Creating a safe environment outside medical buildings — free of physical obstruction and verbal harassment
— is crucial for adolescents.

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Mayor Richard Daley has now agreed to sign the new ordinance into law. Thank you, Mayor Daley and the City Council, for protecting the rights of all people, including youth, to gain safe access to health care.

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