City Council passes quiet zone ordinance for West Loop abortion clinic, defers vote on youth curfew

Craig Wall Image
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
City Council passes quiet zone ordinance for West Loop abortion clinic
The Chicago City Council passed a quiet zone ordinance for a West Loop abortion clinic, but deferred votes on campaign finance and downtown curfews.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The noise level will be a bit more bearable outside a West Loop abortion clinic after the Chicago City Council passed a quiet zone ordinance that had been stalled by abortion opponents.

Anti-abortion members of the council on May 23 had stalled the second attempt in six months by 34th Ward Ald. Bill Conway to establish a "quiet zone" around the abortion clinic operated by Family Planning Associates at 659 W. Washington Blvd.

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The ordinance was taken up again today, and while it passed overwhelmingly, the vote was preceded by impassioned speeches on both sides of the debate that pitted women's rights to access a health care facility against First Amendment rights of demonstrators.

West Loop residents had filed a series of complaints about anti-abortion protesters using loud speakers and disrupting operations. In May, Conway said he has "personally observed" protesters putting amplifiers against the wall of the clinic "making it so loud that clinicians can't hear patients speak, and the building shakes." He has also seen protesters "running at patients" and using bullhorns to harass them.

The ordinance passed Wednesday bans the protesters from using amplified speakers to advance their cause near this clinic. But before the passage, many council members on both sides voiced concerns.

"Christians and other religions have the right to public publicly profess their religion or ideologies, and not be penalized or criminalized by politicians, or people who want to further a political agenda," said 45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner.

"We're talking about a quiet zone for health and safety reasons, not allowing the amplification of sound. We're not restricting anyone's first amendment right. It's not about religion," said 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden.

Anti-abortion groups said they are already planning to file a lawsuit challenging the quiet zone ordinance. Ald. Conway said he is confident the measure will withstand any legal challenge.

City Councils defers votes on campaign finance, youth curfew ordinances

Two other major expected votes were deferred on Wednesday.

The first was an ethics ordinance proposed by Ald. Matt Martin that would have restricted mayors from taking campaign donations from lobbyists.

"You know what we've said all along if you want to eliminate corruption in government, we certainly should work to make sure that rules apply to anyone who is given the trust of the public," said Mayor Brandon Johnson.

The mayor also called for public campaign financing.

The council also deferred a vote on an ordinance to establish an 8 p.m. curfew for minors downtown, after a couple was recently beaten by two teenage suspects between the ages of 14 and 17.

"Now what we're seeing is they're starting earlier, and the crimes that are happening are happening earlier, and the police have asked me to do this because if they want to break up some of these gatherings, say on the beach, for example, they want to be able to do it before it gets to a crowd of 100," said 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins, who sponsored the ordinance.

"So all this is, is a PR stunt to make it look like you're doing something for public safety, when in reality, it wouldn't get enforced," said 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez.

"If a young person had to be passed to be accompanied by an adult, what is the definition of an adult? Is it an 18 year old? Is it a 19 year old is it a 21 year old? These are just reasonable questions," said Mayor Johnson.

The curfew ordinance will now head to the rules committee.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.