State investigators look at actions of abortion clinic protesters

PORTLAND, Ore. - Are protesters outside a Portland abortion clinic exercising their First Amendment rights or intimidating patients? That's the question state investigators are now taking up.

The State Bureau of Labor and Industry is looking at the actions of protesters outside of the Lovejoy Surgicenter in Northwest Portland. Investigators want to know if the protesters are denying patients the right to timely health care.

Various protesters have for years been setting up in front of the Northwest Portland clinic, but the actions of certain demonstrators recently came under the scrutiny of BOLI when a state employee drove by and saw an apparent heated moment between a protester and a patient.

Pastor Chuck O'Neal of the Beaverton Grace Bible Church often videotapes patients as they're entering the clinic and later posts those videos online.

The videos usually show O'Neal shouting at patients as they walk in the clinic, including calling them "murderers."

Sometimes members of his congregation will join him outside the clinic on the corner of NW 25th Avenue and Lovejoy Street.

In one video, O'Neal can be heard yelling, "to the ladies in the Lovejoy Surgicenter, we're here because we love you. We love your unborn child. If you're a mother with child you're not a woman with a choice."

BOLI investigators said the videos are just one of the things they're looking at. They are also concerned about protests the allegedly escalated during the past few months.

"We don't deny access, discriminate or block anyone's movement in any way," O'Neal said in a statement to KATU. "We hold signs that tell the truth about what is taking place inside."

O'Neal said the signs say "Babies are Murdered Here."

"We speak truth to the men and women who come to have their children aborted, exhorting them to choose life for their little baby boy or girl," he added.

Nobody from the Lovejoy Surgicenter returned our call for comment, although owner Allene Klass told Willamette Week that O'Neal and his fellow protesters are "nasty."

"They are trying to intimidate and they are trying to embarrass," Klass told Willamette Week.

Investigators said there is no timeline for their investigation.