Prompted by a plea for help from a local doctor, Bexley City Council is considering whether picketing of a private residence should be illegal.

Prompted by a plea for help from a local doctor, Bexley City Council is considering whether picketing of a private residence should be illegal.

At the July 22 council meeting, members heard the second reading of a proposed ordinance to limit where a person is able to picket. Council will hear the third reading Sept. 9 and will have a chance to vote at that time.

Harley Blank, a doctor who performs abortions at the Founder's Women's Health Center at 1243 E. Broad St., appeared before council June 24, alarmed by a group that picketed in front of his Bexley apartment a few weeks earlier.

Blank, who has been in practice for 38 years, said the pickets came to his home once and followed him and his wife, Kelly, grocery shopping in Whitehall. The couple filed police reports in both Bexley and Whitehall regarding the incident.

"I drew the line when they followed my wife and I to Kroger," Blank said.

He said the pickets mainly approached him about his religious beliefs.

"I don't think they should have the right to come to anybody's residence, not just mine," Blank said.

Lloyd Beyor, Blank's neighbor, said he saw the pickets when he first moved in.

He said the group of about 10 people marched along the sidewalk with signs and even entered into a rear parking area of the residence.

"It was kind of disruptive," Beyor said. "I don't think this is the place. If they want to go down to the Statehouse, go right ahead."

Council member Jed Morison, chair of the city's safety committee, introduced the ordinance at the committee's July 8 meeting.

He said the ordinance only would refer to private residences, meaning protesters could picket in front of publicly owned homes, such as those of Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee and Gov. Ted Strickland.

"I think that the issue is trying to balance free speech with protecting individual residents' safety," Morison said.

Council member Ben Kessler said he is still learning about the topic and has not made a decision as to which way he will vote in September.

"It's a question of freedom of speech, and it's a question of safety," Kessler said. "No matter how small the issue may seem, it's a philosophical question and there are some really fundamental questions to be asked."

At the July 22 council meeting, city attorney Lou Chodosh gave council members background information on anti-picketing legislation in other municipalities.

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar ordinance in Wisconsin was lawful because the municipality was concerned with residents' safety.

At the July 8 service committee meeting, Chodosh said that he modeled the ordinance's language after that ruling so Bexley could say it was following the U.S. Constitution.

Upper Arlington had enforced a similar ordinance until 1995. It was overturned when a protester sued for the right to picket in front of a private home and won, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Dave Daubenmire, founder of Pass the Salt ministries in Hebron, said he has protested at Blank's clinic, and that pickets go there almost every Saturday.

He believes Bexley's proposed ordinance is an attack on the First Amendment.

"I would be against (the ordinance) if they were picketing in front of my own house," he said.

Blank said that he thinks residents' rights have to be looked at as closely as freedom of speech.

"I don't think their rights supersede my rights," he said. "You don't get a freedom without responsibility. I don't think they have the right to take away my rights."