LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On the same day that city workers painted bright yellow lines marking a buffer zone outside of a Louisville abortion clinic, it also removed the lines because they were painted too far apart.
“Public Works crews yesterday striped lines marking the 'buffer zone' at the EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic," Department of Public Works spokesperson Salvador Melendez said in a statement Wednesday. "Those lines had to be adjusted to fit the dimensions listed in the approved ordinance, it was not an act of vandalism."
Ona Marshall, co-owner of the clinic, said it was a surprise when city workers showed up Tuesday. She was also not notified that workers had made a mistake and would return later to remove the lines. The ordinance calls for a 10-foot buffer zone and Marshall was told that the lines were painted 13 feet apart.
Marshall initially thought the lines were removed by vandals, which she said is a natural assumption given what she regularly sees from protesters outside the clinic. "We have trespassing and a lot of unlawful conduct that goes on daily out there," she said.
Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-District 8, was the primary sponsor of the ordinance that established the buffer zone. She too assumed vandals had removed the zone. She said Mayor Greg Fischer's office should have better communicated about what was happening outside the clinic, "so people wouldn't jump to that conclusion.” A Fischer spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The painting of the buffer zone Tuesday came one week after a federal judge refused to put a stop to its creation. The request was made by Sisters for Life, a group that regularly protests outside the clinic, which argued that the buffer zone was a violation of their free speech rights.
Marshall said the zone is necessary because patients entering the clinic are often subjected to “a gauntlet of protesters” who make them afraid. The protests also create a volatile environment between demonstrators and loved ones accompanying patients, she said.
“It protects patients and companions,” she said of the buffer zone. “It protects the staff. It protects the public. And it actually protects the protesters.”
In its statement Wednesday, the Department of Public Works said the lines will be repainted Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting.