AG: Charleston’s abortion ordinance raises free speech concerns

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK/AP) — West Virginia’s top prosecutor says Charleston’s new ordinance to target protests at abortion clinics could run afoul of Constitutional law.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday released a statement saying the ordinance is problematic because it targets free speech.

We are analyzing it, we are seeing the nature of our state constitution and the breath of it, free speech protections and we are also urging the city council to take steps because they could do this better, says Morrisey

Charleston City Council voted 21-5 on Monday to approve restrictions on approaching people as they enter health care facilities. The law forbids people from blocking an entrance or exit and says protesters can’t come within 8 feet of someone who is within 100 feet of a front entrance to advocate a message or provide pamphlets without the person’s consent. City Council members say the ordinance was brought into place for safety purposes.

Police have been called to the Women’s Health Center on Charleston’s West Side…this is something we did at CPD’s request because everyone’s safety is paramount, says City Councilwoman Caitlin Cook.

Wanda Franz, President of West Virginians for Life, says the ordinance is unnecessary. 

It is clearly designed as an attack on the free speech rights of pro-lifers, says Franz to 13 News.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also raised concerns in a statement about the ordinance being too broad. Anti-abortion protesters have threatened legal action.

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