Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buffer Zone Created at Abortion Clinic

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buffer Zone Created at Abortion Clinic

Article excerpt

ENGLEWOOD -- Antiabortion demonstrators can no longer congregate within 8 feet of a city women's clinic, following the adoption Tuesday of regulations imposing buffer zones around all Englewood health care facilities.

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the new rules, which the city's attorney has said were crafted in part to address protests outside the Metropolitan Medical Associates abortion clinic on Engle Street. Activists and some city officials say protests there have intensified recently from low-key, respectful sidewalk vigils to people shouting over megaphones and confronting patients.

The police have received several reports in the past six to eight months of harassing behavior outside the clinic, including people being shoved or bumped, Police Chief Lawrence Suffern said.

More than 100 people packed the Englewood municipal courtroom Tuesday night for the City Council meeting. Several wore bright yellow vests bearing the words "Clinic Escort Volunteer," similar to the vests worn by those who help walk patients past protesters into Metropolitan Medical. A couple of men standing in the back held up signs. One showed a photograph of a fetus in a womb with the words "Children are a gift from the Lord" printed on the sign.

Many spoke of frequent harassment at Metropolitan Medical, including patients being called murderers and being filmed as they entered the clinic.

"I consider this buffer zone a good first step toward a solution to the problems that we are having," said Deb Huber, the acting state president of the National Organization for Women.

Antiabortion advocates, however, disputed that they harassed patients and said the ordinance would hinder their right to free speech.

"If our voices constitute harassment, then we ought to think what country we live in," said Joseph LoSardo, pastor of the Bread of Life Fellowship, based in Wayne.

Edward Gilhooly of the Legal Center for Defense of Life in Morristown threatened legal action. …

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