For the first time in Maine, the state’s attorney general has filed a civil rights lawsuit against an anti-abortion protester who yelled so loudly outside a Portland health care facility that his voice could be heard inside the downtown building.

The lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court seeks to ban 26-year-old Brian Ingalls of Lisbon from coming within 50 feet of Planned Parenthood’s facility at 443 Congress St.

Attorney General Janet Mills accuses Ingalls of violating the Maine Civil Rights Act by yelling so loudly about murdering babies, aborted babies’ blood and Jesus on Oct. 23 that his voice could be heard in the second-floor counseling and examination rooms of the facility.

“Sgt. Eric Nevins of the Portland Police Department responded to the facility’s complaint about the noise. Sgt. Nevins ordered defendant Ingalls to lower his voice so that he would not be audible to patients receiving health services inside the facility,” the four-page complaint states. “Defendant Ingalls’ persistence after a warning in yelling at such a volume that he could be heard within the building demonstrates his intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services at Planned Parenthood.”

Mills alleges in the suit that Ingalls’ actions violated the state law that bars intentionally making noise so loud that it can be heard within a building where medical treatment is provided, when the violator has been warned to cease making such noise and when he has the intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services.

“All patients have the right to receive medical services free of ‘the cacophony of political protests,’ in the words of the United States Supreme Court,” Mills said in a written statement. “While protesters have every right to say anything they want in a public area in the vicinity of a medical facility, they are not permitted to disrupt another citizen’s health care services.”

LAWSUIT CALLED ‘SINISTER’ TACTIC

The state law was passed in 1995, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1994 in favor of a women’s health clinic in a Florida case that found protesters exceeded their constitutional rights by using excessive noise and infringing on the clinic’s rights.

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the lawsuit against Ingalls is the first time the state has sought to use the Maine Civil Rights Act in litigation related to anti-abortion protesters. The AG’s Office did not know whether other states have a similar law.

Attempts to reach Ingalls by Facebook message and by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday. Andrew March, who identified himself as Ingalls’ pastor, said in an email that Ingalls did not want to comment.

Attorney Erin Kuenzig of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan said the center has been retained to represent Ingalls in Mills’ lawsuit.

“The attorney general’s sinister pro-abortion tactic seeks to silence pro-life speech. Such biased action by a state law enforcement officer is unconstitutional and corrupts the entire justice system,” Kuenzig said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “Sadly, through her baseless lawsuit, the attorney general threatens to fine a young hard-working father and Christian up to $5,000 for peacefully preaching the Bible on the public sidewalk.”

Kuenzig accused Mills of abusing the power of her office by filing the lawsuit, calling it a “blatant and shameful” violation of Ingalls’ First Amendment rights.

Portland police investigated the case involving Ingalls, then forwarded their findings to the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether he had committed a civil rights violation, Feeley said.

Mills’ lawsuit seeks to create a 50-foot no-protest zone around Planned Parenthood for Ingalls individually, and comes after the Portland City Council failed in its attempt to create a 39-foot no-protest zone around the clinic for all people.

Anti-abortion activists sued the city of Portland in federal court over that ordinance. The city repealed the ordinance after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a parallel Massachusetts case, and the city ultimately settled the federal lawsuit last month by agreeing to pay $1 in damages and $56,500 in legal fees.

‘INTERFERING’ WITH HEALTH SERVICES

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said patients on the second floor of the offices on Oct. 23 could clearly hear Ingalls yelling while they met with health care workers in consultation rooms.

“It’s disruptive. It’s distracting. It’s interfering with what needs to be a conversation between a health care provider and a patient,” Clegg said.

Planned Parenthood has contacted police in the past when protesters grew too loud, but Ingalls began yelling again even after an officer told him he was being too loud, Clegg said.

“We’re grateful to the attorney general and the Portland Police Department for taking action to protect the rights of our patients so they can receive health care. Our patients are our priority. Making sure they can get some medical advice is essential,” Clegg said.

Zachary Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said his organization applauded Mills for standing up for the rights of women seeking abortions and health care.

“Individuals have the right to free expression, but they do not have the right to interfere with women who are trying to obtain health care. The Constitution protects a woman’s personal decision regarding whether and when to become a parent, which is one of the most important civil rights,” Heiden said.

Lt. James Sweatt, a spokesman for the Portland Police Department, said he could not release the police report regarding Ingalls’ actions Oct. 23 because the department is reviewing the case.

“We still have it on our desk for possible criminal charges,” Sweatt said. “It’s as close to disorderly conduct as one could be.”