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Chicago must establish a quiet zone outside abortion clinic

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Every Saturday, without exception, the patients and clinic staff members at Family Planning Associates in downtown Chicago are met with a wall of noise and vitriol when they enter the facility. 

Large crowds of anti-abortion activists gather outside the health care clinic and use megaphones and microphones, harassing patients and employees and threatening their sense of safety.

FPA is one of the largest independent reproductive health clinics in the Midwest. FPA offers a range of services, including abortion. The patients coming to FPA are there to receive health care that can be at times lifesaving, often life-affirming or simply routine. 

Many who come to FPA for abortion care are local to Chicago, while others travel long distances from states in the South and Midwest where abortion care is banned or severely restricted. The staff members who work at FPA are there to perform their day-to-day work as health care professionals and provide compassionate care for everyone who walks through the door.

Patients and providers should be able to go about their days without extreme noise and harassment. 

Health care decisions are a private matter between a patient and their provider. The amplified noise right outside FPA is so loud that patients and providers cannot hear one another speak inside the building, and this excessive noise is putting everyone’s safety at risk.

The Chicago City Council will vote on Wednesday to extend the existing noise and vibration control ordinance to FPA. This ordinance designates certain noise-sensitive zones, such as schools, libraries, churches, hospitals and nursing homes. This ordinance recognizes that health care facilities need quiet to deliver essential care. Noise-sensitive zones are already established by this ordinance at Northwestern Memorial and Lurie Children’s hospitals.

This ordinance preserves the right to speech and assembly of demonstrators. What it limits is amplified noise that interferes with the practice of medicine.

Anti-abortion rights forces have already delayed the vote on this ordinance. We at Personal PAC and FPA, along with many of the volunteer clinic escorts with the Illinois Choice Action Team who deal firsthand with this noise and harassment, showed up to City Hall in May expecting a clear and decisive vote.

Ald. Bill Conway, 34th, the ordinance’s sponsor, and Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration had put in months of work preparing the necessary findings. Extensive reports from the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Chicago Police Department were entered into record, establishing the public safety risk posed by excessive noise outside of FPA.

And yet one single alderman saw an opportunity to voice his anti-abortion rights views under the guise of free speech concerns, and another joined him in a parliamentary maneuver to delay the vote.

But we are not deterred. 

It has been nearly two years since Donald Trump’s handpicked justices on the United States Supreme Court ended the federal right to abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. That decision emboldened anti-abortion rights extremists to unleash attacks on our health care across our country. There are many stories of people being forced to flee their home states for other states such as Illinois, a critical access point for abortion care, and cities such as Chicago, which defends and protects abortion.

We call on the City Council to swiftly pass the ordinance.  

Sarah Garza Resnick is CEO of Personal PAC, and Allison Cowett is the medical director at Family Planning Associates. 

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email [email protected].



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