Updated: 8:11 p.m.
An anti-abortion group has dropped its challenge of a federal restraining order that keeps it from blocking the entrance to the only clinic still performing abortions in Kentucky.
Last week, a federal judge established a buffer zone to prevent protesters from assembling in front of Louisville’s EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
The group Operation Save America is holding anti-abortion protests at the clinic this week as part of its conference in Louisville.
Operation Save America had argued that the buffer zone was heavy handed and kept protesters from exercising their free-speech rights.
The group has now dropped its challenge and the buffer zone will remain in place through Saturday, the last day of the conference.
A court hearing on the buffer zone Monday morning drew a crowd of protesters outside the U.S. District courthouse in Louisville, many holding signs or singing Christian hymns.
The judge had issued the temporary restraining order on Friday as a preemptive move ahead of the demonstrations.
A federal restraining order establishing a temporary buffer zone at Louisville’s EMW Women’s Surgical Center will remain in place for the time being.
Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order establishing a buffer zone outside the EMW clinic — Kentucky’s only abortion provider — that keeps protesters from assembling in front of the clinic.
A hearing began Monday on whether the buffer zone — requested but the U.S. Attorney — should remain in place this week, but no decision was handed down. The hearing will continue Tuesday morning.
Rusty Thomas, director of the group Operation Save America, is challenging the restraining order. Thomas’ group is leading large anti-abortion protests at the clinic in Louisville this week. He said his group’s protests have been peaceful and legal.
“And the full weight of the federal government falls upon us,” he said. “If people can grasp that, then you know why our nation is in the condition she is in.”
Dozens of abortion protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Louisville as the hearing began — most of them from Operation Save America, which is holding a conference in Louisville this week.
The order was aimed at 10 individuals associated with Operation Save who were arrested at the EMW clinic after protesting in May, as well as any of their associates.
A clinic volunteer, Patricia Canon, testified at the hearing Monday that the buffer zone helped patients move into the clinic without obstructions by protesters on Saturday.
Rev. Dan Gibson of Kansas City is also with Operation Save. He said a ruling either way won’t change the group’s focus.
“Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’re here as witnesses, we stand for the truth and if nobody agrees, that’s okay. We’re peaceful, we’re passive, we’re non-violent. We just raise our voices and we stand for what we think is truth.”
Operation Save America began its weeklong conference Saturday with the stated goal of shutting down the clinic.
Testimony in the hearing regarding the temporary buffer zone resumes Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
This story has been updated.