Jackson's medical facility "buffer zone" law, which minimizes protest activities in the immediate vicinity of the state's only abortion clinic, may be short-lived if a Republicans bill in the Mississippi Legislature becomes law.
Republican-sponsored House Bill 628 would amend State law to prohibit cities from regulating "directly or indirectly, any medical facility, hospital, clinic, or other health care facility in a manner that restricts free speech or other fundamental rights in the immediate vicinity of the facility" without "prior legislative approval."
Mississippi House Rep. Randy P. Boyd, R-Mantachie, admitted to the Jackson Free Press on Thursday that the bill is a direct response to Jackson's ordinance.
"That's what brought it about. I won't beat around the bush," Boyd said. "The reason for the bill is I don't think any part of the government should limit the free speech of individuals on public grounds."
Boyd: 'Free Speech Overrides' Safety Concerns
Nine Republican House members joined Boyd to sponsor his bill, including Reps. Wallace Price, Fred Shanks, Donnie Scoggin, Timmy Ladner, Steve Hopkins, Jeff Hale, Kevin Ford, Dana Criswell and Nick Bain. The bill sits in the House Judiciary A Committee, which will decide whether or not it advances for a vote on the full House floor.
The Jackson City Council passed the ordinance in October, requiring protesters to demonstrate at least 15 feet away from the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Fondren. The ordinance also banned shouting and the use of loud-speaker systems to get their message out. Under the law, protesters cannot come within 8 feet of a patient to talk or share leaflets without consent if that patient is within a 100-foot radius of the clinic. The ordinance proscribes up to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine for violators.
When the Jackson City Council considered the ordinance last year, supporters of the law, including