Chicago Police Profoundly Confused on New “Bubble Zone” Law

Chicago Police stand near Albany abortuary entrance after forcing pro-life counselor Ann Scheidler to move 50 feet away [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

Two days after the enactment of a Bubble Zone designed to restrict the pro-life outreach of sidewalk counselors, Chicago police are enforcing the new law erroneously, illustrating how wrong-headed and unjust this law really is.

On the morning of November 19, League Vice President Ann Scheidler was sidewalk counseling at the Albany Surgical-Medical Center when clinic director Diana Lamon arrived. Lamon approached Ann, disrupting a dialog she was having with an abortion-bound woman, and told her she cannot come within 50 feet of the entrance.

Ann explained that this is not what the Bubble Zone law says, but Lamon walked off, saying she was going to call the police. Shortly thereafter three squad cars arrive and three officers and entered the facility.

Police Refuse To Read Full “Bubble Zone” Text

Ten minutes later, the police emerged form the clinic and Officer Erbacci repeated the Lamon’s erroneous claim that Ann had to stay fifty feet away from the entrance. He showed her a copy of the ordinance, apparently given to him by Lamon, with the “fifty feet” language.

Three squad cars answered the call from Albany abortuary [Photo by Ann Scheidler]

Ann tried to point out to him that you have to read the full sentence of the ordinance to understand it’s meaning. The ordinance does not say pro-life counselors cannot come within 50 feet of the entrance, but that they must get permission to come closer than eight feet to another person within 50 feet of the entrance.

Ann then showed the officer the mark she’d made on the sidewalk at the fifty-foot line, and tried again to explain that inside that line she cannot approach closer than eight feet to a client of the clinic without permission.

The officer responded, “You can’t get closer than eight feet, anyplace, of someone who’s going into the clinic”—another profound misreading of the actual ordinance.

Ann tried to get Officer Erbacci to read the full text of the ordinance, but he refused.

Unjust “Bubble Zone” Has Got to Go—TRO To Be Filed Soon

8-4-010 Disorderly conduct.

A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly: . . .

(k) . . . (1) knowingly approaches another person within eight feet of such person, unless such other person consents, for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way within a radius of 50 feet from any entrance door to a hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility . . .

A person convicted of disorderly conduct shall be fined not more than $500.00 for each offense.

—”Bubble Zone” language in full

Officer Erbacci then told Ann that every time a pro-life goes inside of the fifty-foot zone, the police would come and ticket them, with a $500 fine. Ann said he might just as well park on the curb and just stay there because pro-lifers would be coming every day and that his interpretation of the law is incorrect.

Meanwhile, Joe Scheidler, who was praying down the block while Ann was counseling, got pro-life attorney Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center on the phone. Tom asked to speak to the police officer, but he refused, saying, “I don’t need to talk to Tom. He’s not here.”

At that point the police said they had to go to join the police escort for the funeral of Francheska Velez, the pregnant soldier slain in the Fort Benning shootings. Musing on this irony, Ann resumed counseling in the alleyway behind the clinic, well outside the fifty-foot zone.

“If even the police cannot read this ordinance clearly, the court cleary needs to suspend this law,” Scheidler remarked.

The morning’s incident is expected to bolster the motion Thomas More Society attorneys are preparing for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Bubble Zone law.

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