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Government, Politics & Issues

Protest buffer zone at St. Louis Planned Parenthood narrowly earns first-round approval

A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis, an anti-abortion group, waves as a car exits the Planned Parenthood parking lot on Forest Park Avenue. Volunteers hand out anti-abortion pamphlets to passers-by.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis, an anti-abortion group, waves as a car exits the Planned Parenthood parking lot on Forest Park Avenue. Volunteers hand out anti-abortion pamphlets to passers-by.

It soon could be harder for opponents of Planned Parenthood to get their message to people going to the St. Louis Central West End clinic.

On a 15-13 vote, St. Louis Aldermen gave the measure, sponsored by Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, first-round approval on Friday. It sets up an 8-foot buffer zone around health care facilities.

The bill is about more than the issue of abortion, Ingrassia said. Protesters at Planned Parenthood have become a public safety issue, she said. Last year, there was an uptick in phone calls to the police.

“They know that there are problems there to the tune of 73 calls for service last year for impeding the flow of traffic,” Ingrassia said. “There are people standing in the middle of the driveway. There are people reaching into people’s cars. There are definitely problems.”

Other aldermen said women should be able to access health care at Planned Parenthood without being harassed by protesters.

However, Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, said the buffer zone would violate people’s First Amendment rights.

“This is a direct violation of not only my civil rights, but other people,” Vaccaro said. “And once we start playing with it, I will warn you that we will continue to play [with the zone]. [If] we don’t like this, let’s make a buffer zone over here. Well, we don’t like that, let’s restrict that.”

Mayor Lyda Krewson did not comment on the bill. Aldermen will vote next week whether to send it to her for her signature.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

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