October 9, 2013

Portland panel recommends buffer zone around Planned Parenthood

The proposal will go to City Council for a final vote.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mandy Boger, who works at Planned Parenthood in Portland, speaks Tuesday night at City Hall in favor of a buffer zone.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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John Ewing/staff photographer... Trisha McAllister, chairwoman of Portland’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee, gives her findings to City Council members before the public hearing Tuesday.

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“This ordinance will set a precedent for the rest of the state,” Walker said. “One patient cowering against the wall in tears is one too many.”

Supporters of the buffer Tuesday included statewide groups such as the Family Planning Association of Maine and the Maine Women’s Lobby, and independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, a Cape Elizabeth resident.

Cutler said that if he is elected governor, he will ask the Legislature to enact buffer zones around abortion clinics statewide.

“This just isn’t about Portland. It’s a matter of statewide importance,” Cutler said. “I feel deeply and strongly about this issue.”

The committee had held two meetings about the proposed buffer before Tuesday’s public hearing. Committee Chairman Edward Suslovic noted the need for the city to build an “impenetrable public record” in the likely event the city gets sued.

An issue did arise about whether the buffer could apply to the building entrance at Congress and Elm streets. That entrance is used primarily by the Portland Chamber of Commerce, which is closed on Saturdays.

The city’s neighborhood prosecutor, Trish McAllister, who staffs the committee, said that entrance would be covered since Planned Parenthood can be accessed from that door.

“I’m willing to defend this,” McAllister said.

“That’s good enough for me,” Suslovic replied.

After the vote, the crowd – including older women wearing bright yellow T-shirts saying “GRR: Grandmothers for reproductive rights” – erupted in cheers.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:rbillings@pressherald.com Twitter: @randybillings
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