Wednesday, Jul 18, 2018
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Fiddling while free speech burns

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    Many of those who support the law wore red shirts that stated "I support Capital Care," referring to the Capital Care Network abortion clinic at 1160 West Sylvania Ave.

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Sometimes a news story, like certain fairy tales, has no real good guys — no one making sense or rising high above the nonsense.

A recent Blade story about 200 people in the Toledo City Council chambers exercised over a proposed statute that is totally unnecessary almost had no grownup.

The proposed law in question would have made it a misdemeanor to impede access to health-care facilities — including (especially) the city’s only abortion clinic.



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Sounds reasonable, right?

Except that you can already be arrested for blocking access or jostling people trying to enter an abortion clinic, or any other establishment. Assault is assault and making a public disturbance brings Toledo’s finest pretty fast, to any neighborhood.

Had there been an assault at the clinic?


Just right-to-life people protesting — their right under the First Amendment.

So what was Councilman Steven Steel up to with this proposal? Was he pandering? Or was he experimenting? Mr. Steel has been going to law school and apparently this ordinance was a bit of a class project.

One hopes there is also a free speech project in the works somewhere at the UT law school.

But bad faith seemed to be contagious in that room that day.

The head of the clinic weighed in to equate speech with violence.

Councilman Kurt Young, chairman of council’s criminal justice committee, said no one would be allowed to talk about abortion — that wasn’t the issue.

But it was.

One lady gave an impassioned speech about being talked out of having an abortion by a protester.

Others spoke ominously about an imagined war on women.

And the local Catholic bishop sent a letter gently reminding council that Catholics vote. He wrote: “It is my earnest hope and desire that this legislation does not advance.” He did not deign to appear in the flesh.



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The law would have set up 20-foot buffer zones and protesters would not be allowed to come closer. Abortion rights advocates supported it. Anti-abortion advocates said it would restrict free speech. But abortion, and not freedom of speech, was plainly their chief concern.

It would have been great to have heard from a pro-choice person who was also pro-free speech.

Even the Ohio Building Trades weighed in. They were against the law because it might chill union organizing.

No one spoke for speech. There aren’t many votes there.

But there was one honest, unpostured, if not necessarily eloquent, moment. It came from Councilman Rob Ludeman. He said: “There is no reason at all we should be addressing this particular issue today.”

True enough, and likely to be true of some lesser distraction soon enough.

There is no rabbit hole Toledo City Council will not go down and no point it can’t miss.

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