Media Takes Notice of Pro-Life Action League Training

Tom Brejcha’s talk on the new Chicago bubble zone is now available to view on Youtube. Get the full story and watch the video here.

Attorney Tom Brejcha addresses pro-lifers on the new Chicago “Bubble Zone” ordinance [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

The Pro-Life Action League hosted a very successful Sidewalk Counseling Training Session on Saturday, November 14. Fifty pro-lifers turned out to learn more about being effective counselors and about dealing with the new Chicago Bubble Zone ordinance.

Ann Scheidler began with some general tips that all sidewalk counselors should know. She briefly explained milestones of fetal development as well as standard abortion methods. She explained that counselors need to know this information in order to effectively engage women entering the clinics. Using the example of the movie Juno, Ann reminded counselors of the importance small details can have in saving a life.

Ann explained the Chicago Method of sidewalk counseling, which alerts women to the lawsuits that have been filed against the clinic. She directed participants to the flyers in their folders, which contained the most up-to-date copies of the lawsuits against Planned Parenthood (Chicago) and Family Planning Associates. Participants were upset, though not surprised, to find that Planned Parenthood has been accused of leading to the death of a woman who went there for an abortion as recently as this year.

Katie Reidy, who works at a local pregnancy resource center (PRC), spoke on the relationship between sidewalk counselors and PRCs. She assured participants that when they bring a woman to their center, she is in good hands. Reidy urged counselors to take a tour of the PRC that is nearest the abortion clinic at which they counsel at so they will know exactly what resources are available to these women.

The final component of the training was a lesson on the new Chicago “Bubble Zone” ordinance, which is scheduled to go into effect November 17. Tom Brejcha, president and lead counsel of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center in Chicago began by explaining the basic protections the First Amendment provides for those engaged in protest in a “public forum,” such as a sidewalk.

Then, looking closely at the text of the new ordinance, Brejcha attempted to explain the meaning of the significant words. The ACLU, which is against the Bubble Zone, interprets the word “approach” to mean a sidewalk counselor cannot ever be within eight feet of a person entering an abortion clinic.

Brejcha, referring to the etymological root of the word “approach,” the French word s’approcher, said he believed the ordinance means a counselor cannot move him/herself in order to come closer than eight feet to a person without their consent, but that if that person comes towards the counselor, this is not “approaching.”

Pro-lifers at the sidewalk counseling seminar [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

Brejcha stressed that the courts will be the ones who determine whether a person has violated the law, and promised that any person found guilty of violating the bubble zone ordinance while acting in good faith will be defended by the Thomas More Society.

Ann and League staffer Corrina Gura then demonstrated how far 50 feet is from the doorway by stretching a long yellow rope down the length of the room and out the door. They explained that within this distance from a clinic entrance, a person gets an eight-foot bubble around him or herself. They then stretched another rope to show how far eight feet is from another person. Within this space, a counselor cannot “approach” another person without “consent.”

Various questions arose about how to determine consent. Is it enough that she doesn’t say no? Or must she say yes to a counselor? And does stretching out one’s arm constitute “approaching”? Unfortunately many of these issues will need to be resolved by the court, which is why the Thomas More Society plans to file a temporary restraining order against this ordinance.

Corrina finished by showing a PowerPoint presentation of the Chicago abortion clinics. At each clinic, she and Ann measured 50 feet from the entrance to show counselors where the bubble zone began. Because in most instances it will not be possible to stay outside the 50-foot zone to counsel, they also measured eight-foot distances from where counselors would be likely to stand in order to give them an idea of where an individual’s personal eight-foot bubble began.

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