Thursday, April 24, 2014
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A pedestrian walks past anti-abortion protesters on Congress Street in Portland near the Planned Parenthood clinic on Oct. 4. Maine’s attorney general and her colleagues from 12 other states have signed onto a “friend-of-the-court” brief in support of protest-free buffer zones outside reproductive health clinics that provide abortions.
Shawn Patrick Oulette / Staff Photographer
The Portland City Council approved the buffer zone on Nov. 18, and the ordinance took effect immediately, forcing the protesters to stand across Congress Street or 39 feet to either side of the clinic last Friday. The council argued that the buffer zone allows freedom of speech by the protesters while protecting patients’ rights to get health care without intimidation or harassment.
Portland’s ordinance technically bans people from remaining in the buffer zone except for certain specific reasons, such as waiting for patients to escort into the clinic. A police officer enforced the buffer zone while protesters were present on Friday morning, although it does not appear to be enforced when protesters are not present.
The written arguments filed by the state attorneys general call for the court to allow states to regulate the protesters.
“The Supreme Court should ensure that states are able to appropriately respond to the unique factual circumstances faced in their state in seeking to ensure safe access to reproductive health facilities, while also protecting all forms of speech and expressive conduct,” Schneiderman said Monday.
The 12 other states joining Schneiderman’s brief are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The coalition is also joined by the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: