Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Government officials for the city of Portland have been cautious about enforcing a patient safety buffer zone around Planned Parenthood, which has been the target of anti-abortion protesters.
Opponents of abortion protest outside Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Portland last October.
2012 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski
Though the city has increased police surveillance in the area, this method of addressing the issue of patient harassment is unrealistic and ineffective.
The city believes that because no arrests have been made, the problem has gotten better.
According to workers at Planned Parenthood, the increased surveillance has not decreased the amount of patient harassment.
While it is true that patients could file police reports every time they feel threatened, this is an invasive and time-consuming process that more often than not ends in futility.
A patient safety buffer zone would be a practical solution to problems everyone involved faces.
• First and foremost, people seeking health care would be free of intimidation and harassment.
• Secondly, the protesters would still maintain their right to free speech, but they would have to exercise it in a way that is respectful of others who wish to exercise their protected right to reproductive health care.
• Third, the city of Portland would not have to waste the extra resources required to increase police surveillance around Planned Parenthood.
• Fourth, Planned Parenthood would not have to expend financial resources hiring off-duty officers to work on Fridays and Saturdays, which is an action they have had to take in light of protest activity.
As a resident of Portland who cares about the health and well-being of my fellow Mainers, I urge the city of Portland to enforce the patient safety buffer zone.
The Supreme Court has ruled that access to reproductive health care is a protected right. So, why then does it seem to be so difficult to protect the rights of Mainers accessing health care?
A 35-foot patient safety buffer zone outside the Congress Street Planned Parenthood would allow all those accessing the Planned Parenthood to do so safely and those who wish to express their pro-life views to also do so safely.
Portland City Councilor Edward Suslovic feels that a buffer zone isn't necessary and having police on duty outside of the Planned Parenthood would be enough.
Going to the police would do very little to help the situation.
A cease-harassment order would only work to stop future contact between two specific people. It would not stop the protesters from harassing anyone else trying to enter the building or walking by.
Having police officers on duty has not stopped harassment from taking place.
The protesters are using large, visually violent signs and intimidation tactics to try to shame those accessing Planned Parenthood in hopes that they won't enter the health care center.
I have walked past the protesters on several occasions and been told things like "there is blood on your hands."
Another woman was told, "You're lucky your parents didn't abort you."
These are just some examples of awful and offensive statements said by the protesters outside of the health care center.
Every Friday, Mainers are forced to either risk harassment or simply not access health care, because of fear of harassment.
The 35-foot patient safety buffer zone would stop this from happening immediately.
I want to know that I am a proud resident of a city that would never allow its citizens to be shamed for taking care of their own bodies.
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