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City Council introduces legislation to protect patients at abortion clinics

Ordinance would make it illegal to get within 8 feet of a patient without consent.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Editor's note: The above video is from a 2019 council meeting.

A trio of Toledo City Council members recently introduced an ordinance that would make it illegal to block entry or exit to a reproductive health care facility.

Capital Care Clinic is the only abortion clinic in the city. Kristin Hady, the clinic's volunteer clinic escort coordinator, says anti-abortion protesters often show up and harass patients.

The ordinance would also make it illegal for protesters and anti-abortion activists to get within eight feet of a patient without their consent, within 100 feet of the building.

"They call out to them, they yell at them, sometimes they use amplification depending on who it is," Hady said. "If a patient is unlucky enough to have parked off-site across the street or on a side street, they will be followed by protesters."

Hady said there are more "egregious" examples. On one occasion, she said a protester stuck their hand in a patient's car door and refused to move it until she took a piece of literature.

Councilmen Nick Komives, Theresa Gadus, and Vanice Williams introduced the legislation Feb. 16. 

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Komives has volunteered at various clinics, including Capital Care. He said he has witnessed similar activity.

"When someone is screaming at you that you're going to hell, that's not loving counselling," he said. "A decision on health care only involves that person and their professionals, and it's important to protect people when they're seeking health care."

Komives said he has also seen protestors locking arms to block doors, and writing down license plate numbers of patients.

Ohio Right to Life spokeswoman Allie Frazier said the organization is "gravely concerned" about the ordinance, saying it separates women from community advocates and the "life-saving resources" they provide.

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"Peaceful sidewalk advocates are often the only ones willing to reach out to abortion-vulnerable women with real help and support," Frazier said in a statement. "Sidewalk advocates give women a second chance to embrace life and seek to eliminate their crisis, not their precious child. Conversely, Capital Care of Toledo’s business is abortion, and they know that every time a woman is empowered for life, they lose a paying customer. 

"The Toledo City Council is poised to prioritize the needs of an abortion facility over the very real needs of women in crisis. This ordinance isn’t about protecting women- it’s about protecting an abortion business’s bottom line."

Hady said all Capital Care patients receive counselling at the clinic prior to an abortion, and all options are presented by medical professionals.

She said the ordinance is geared to narrow in on acts that are already criminal, such as harassment and obstructing an entrance.

"If you're following the law when you're at the clinic, nothing will change," Hady said. "The biggest part is making sure patients know if something does happen, the city will prosecute people breaking the law. We're seeing a resurgence of the Rescue Movement."

Komives said the earliest council could vote on the legislation is March 16.