Vote On Controversial Sidewalk Ordinance Delayed Again

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A vote on a proposed ordinance that would impact sidewalk protests outside Huntsville's only abortion clinic was delayed once again Thursday night.

Huntsville City Council members voted to table the ordinance that governs public assembly, the second time it's been put off in as many months.

Members of Huntsville's pro-life community turned out en masse at the meeting, asking council members to reconsider proposals that would open up the sidewalk by the abortion clinic on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The pro-life groups have regularly gathered outside the clinic for several years by obtaining the required city permit. Pro-life supporters argue that changing the rules to first-come first-serve would give a natural advantage to pro-abortion protestors, since they have inside knowledge of when the clinic is actually open for business. The pro-life groups said they try to gather when the clinic is open so they can share their message to women who are considering abortion.

"The pro-abortion group, they know ahead of time, so what is fair about that?" said one pro-life supporter. "If they're already working for the abortion facility, why should they also when they have the private property, the sidewalk going up and down the driveways, why should they have that sidewalk too other than to push pro-life people off?"

Councilman John Olshefski was one of several city leaders arguing for the changes on the basis of public safety. Police officials have said they're worried about escalating tensions by the clinic, but told council members they're open to a proposal that would guarantee equal space and access for both groups through a new type of permit.

"This whole ordinance is really helping us alot with public safety," said Olshefski. "I'm talking about the runner who runs on the sidewalk who has to run on the road now."

Councilman Bill Kling made the motion to table the ordinance. Kling said all five council members should be present when the vote is taken. Councilman Will Culver was absent Thursday night.

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