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N.J. City Adopts 'Buffer Zone' Rules

March 20, 2014 — The Englewood, N.J., City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved new regulations that would bar individuals from protesting within eight feet of any health care facility in the city, including abortion clinics, the North Jersey Record reports.

Under the new ordinance, individuals cannot "knowingly" enter or remain on a public walkway or sidewalk that falls within eight feet of the entry, exit or driveway of a health care facility or transitional facility, such as a shelter for domestic violence survivors or facility housing people with mental illnesses. Individuals also cannot street access to those entries, exits or driveways by standing in front of the point of access.

According to the North Jersey Record, the regulations are only in effect during a facility's business hours and only if the zone is clearly marked. Bypassers, police, facility employees, people entering or exiting the facility, emergency personnel, utility workers and municipal agents are exempt from the rules.

Rules Developed in Response to Clinic Protests

According to the North Jersey Record, the rules were developed largely in response to increasingly volatile demonstrations outside the Metropolitan Medical Associates abortion clinic in Englewood.

Police Chief Lawrence Suffern said that over the past six to eight months, police have received reports of shoving and other harassing behavior.

Comments

More than 100 people attended the council meeting, including several who wore bright yellow "Clinic Escort Volunteer" vests. Many people spoke about harassment at the clinic, including patients being filmed or called murderers.

Deb Huber, acting state president for the National Organization for Women, said that the ordinance is a "good first step toward a solution to the problems that we are having."

However, Joseph LoSardo, pastor of the Bread of Life Fellowship, said, "If our voices constitute harassment, then we ought to think what country we live in."

Before the vote, Edward Gilhooly of the Legal Center for Defense of Life said that if the ordinance passed, "we're going to be in federal court" (Lueddeke, North Jersey Record, 3/18).