Bumbling Madison City Council Backtracks on Buffer Zone
Published in the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday March 6 and set to go into effect on Friday March 7, the City of Madison buffer zone ordinance is now in a state of limbo. The Madison Vigil for Life federal lawsuit, seeking an emergency injunction against the new law, was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys the day after the Madison Common Council passed the ordinance on February 25. Although a temporary restraining order was denied by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley, Alderwoman Lisa Subeck (the sponsor of the ordinance and former NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin director) filed a “motion for reconsideration” at the March 4th city council meeting. This motion to reconsider, to be voted on at the March 18 council meeting, suspends the effect of the ordinance.
The City's "Buffer Zone" ordinance creates bubble areas 320-feet wide in diameter around every entrance of every building in Madison that happens to have a physician's office, clinic or hospital inside. In each bubble no person may "approach" within eight feet of another person to leaflet, educate, display a sign, protest or counsel passersby. The lawsuit alleges that offices used by physicians create bubbles around hundreds of locations, including the Student Government's office building on University and East Campus Mall, on State Street, on Capital Square, and on sidewalks outside UW campus' Medical Sciences buildings and the Wisconsin Primate Research Center. According to Gwen Finnegan, director of Madison Vigil for Life, "No City can create a gag rule banning leafleting on miles of public sidewalks in places like campus, State Street and Capital Square, just to drive its brazen pro-abortion agenda against peaceful people who offer women compassionate choices outside of abortion facilities."
It is painfully clear that the Madison Common Council overreached with this massively broad ordinance that drowns the whole city in anti-free speech bubbles. Alderwoman Subeck is obviously scaling back this ill-conceived law. But as the City of Madison bumbles, pro-life sidewalk counselors can continue their lifesaving work unfettered by an unconstitutional restriction on free-speech. We praise God for that!