The Burlington City Council has voted to move forward with a plan that would create a buffer zone around reproductive health care clinics in the city.
The city Council on Monday night approved the first reading of a measure that would create a 35-foot buffer zone around any licensed or legally operating reproductive health care or counseling facility in the city of Burlington. No one could impede exit or entry into the facility, congregate or picket within that buffer. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Director of Vermont Public Affairs Jill Krowinski says since the facility moved to their location on St. Paul Street last year, protesters have become more aggressive.
The protesters say they are not aggressive and feel they are being singled out, using the Occupy movement as an example. Vermont Right to Life Executive Director Mary Hahn Beerworth says their members do not speak to anyone, and conduct quiet, informational, non-invasive protests.
40 Days for Life Vermont Community Outreach Coordinator Sharon Winzler says they conduct peaceful vigils.
The measure, originally sponsored by 10 of the city councillors, passed by a vote of 13 to 1. City Council President Ward 5 Democrat Joan Shannon says while many protesters are peaceful, police have been called because there have been incidents where patients and clients have been accosted. Shannon has worked to assure that the constitutional rights of both sides will be preserved.
The measure to create a buffer zone now moves to the Ordinance Committee. If it becomes law violators would face fines of 50 to 500 dollars.