January 13, 2013

Letters to the editor: Free speech and abortion protests

Mike Fink has recently given several media interviews concerning the Pro-Life Missionaries at Planned Parenthood in Portland ("Protesters face off over abortion rights in Portland," Jan. 4). As one of the Missionaries, I want to address some of Mr. Fink's claims.

click image to enlarge

Louis Sigel, left, a pro-abortion rights protester, exchanges words with anti-abortion protester Leslie Sneddon outside Planned Parenthood in Portland at a rally Jan. 4 organized by a business owner who said he’s trying to dislodge the weekly anti-abortion pickets. Readers debate whether the weekly protests are examples of peaceful speech or harassment.

2013 File Photo/John Patriquin

Mr. Fink has stated in several interviews, including at least one printed in this newspaper, that the Missionaries have yelled in people's faces. This is patently false.

It would be illegal for any of our Missionaries to engage in such behavior. There is a police officer on duty at the clinic each week when we engage in sidewalk counseling. If Mr. Fink's claims were true and our actions were as outrageous as he claims, we would certainly have been arrested already.

Pro-Life Missionaries of Maine engage people in a peaceful, non-threatening manner, as required by law. We are not "protesters," we are educators helping to get last-minute information to women who oftentimes need help.

Many women entering the clinic feel that they have no other option but to abort their children. Some of our Missionaries have adopted children, including one family who has adopted five.

We do what we do because we love people and believe that all human life should be protected as precious, including the lives of the unborn.

Jeremy Hiltz

Chelsea

As a resident of Portland for the last 14 years, I've seen my share of protests in public spaces, from anti-war demonstrations to religious proselytism.

People's ability to exercise their rights to free speech and free assembly so readily is something that makes our city great. However, the anti-choice protesters who have taken to standing outside of the Planned Parenthood Health Center in recent weeks have crossed the line from free expression into harassment.

The protesters picket the Congress Street facility carrying signs covered in slogans and graphic images. Ostensibly, they are there to voice their objections to the abortion procedures that Planned Parenthood performs.

As vehement as their opposition to these procedures may be, however, they seem not to care that abortions constitute only 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides. Most people go to Planned Parenthood's health centers for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, contraception or cancer screenings.

For many poor or uninsured people, myself included, the health centers are the only way to access reasonably priced reproductive health care, and by attempting to block people from utilizing those services, the protesters are not living up very well to the "pro-life" label that they apply to themselves.

While I do disagree quite ardently with both the methods and message employed by the anti-choice protesters, I do accept that they have a constitutional right to publicly espouse their views. Therefore, I strongly support a proposal to create a "patient safety buffer zone" around the clinic.

The protesters will still be able to voice their opinions, while all of those who avail themselves of the irreplaceable services provided by Planned Parenthood will have access to them safely, without having to worry about the hostility and scorn of the protesters.

Blynn Curtis

Portland

Severe limits key to halting lion's share of mass killings

At last, Mark MacLeod and Robert Gillies have articulated my thoughts concerning the Second Amendment ("Voice of the People: Repeal the Second Amendment," Jan. 6).

I agree that the Second Amendment has been misinterpreted. To those people who immediately cite Newtown as proof that I am off my rocker, I offer the notion that some things are unknowable. Rushing to find solutions so that this tragedy won't ever happen again is an exercise in futility.

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