Madison City Council Updates Buffer Zone Ordinance

As reproductive rights advocates celebrate the city council of Englewood, New Jersey, passing an ordinance Tuesday creating a buffer zone around clinics that provide abortion care, the city council of Madison, Wisconsin, passed updates to the city’s newly created buffer zone ordinance.

Ald. Lisa Subeck (District 1), who introduced the Madison ordinance, told RH Reality Check that she added the ordinance to the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting to make a few minor changes to ensure the law does exactly what the council intended it to do. “I asked for reconsideration of the proposal in order to make some tweaks that strengthen and clarify the law’s application,” said Subeck.

The changes included making the ordinance more consistent with a buffer zone law upheld by the Supreme Court in Hill v. Colorado by changing the reach of the protective zone. The zone around entrances to health-care facilities was changed from 160 feet to 100 feet. In addition, a 30-foot zone was added around driveway entrances to health-care facilities to protect those arriving by vehicle. (This zone only applies if the 100-foot zone does not protect the driveway entrance.)

A floating eight-foot buffer zone that’s intended to protect individuals even outside the 100-foot zone, remains in place.

“We also tweaked the definition of covered health-care clinics,” said Subeck, to specify that they must be facilities where a physician or nurse practitioner provides medical care. Minor changes were also made to clarify the treatment of common areas in multi-office buildings where health-care clinics may be located.

“The changes work to strengthen and clarify the law,” said Subeck. “Ensuring that women and others have safe access to health care, free from intimidation and with their privacy rights intact.”

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