Long waits, high costs and worries about an inauspicious diagnosis are almost inevitable during medical appointments. But one thing patients shouldn’t have to face is outside noise that is so loud that it interferes with what’s going on inside the office.

That’s why we support the state’s decision to sue a Lisbon man for his recent high-volume anti-abortion protests outside Planned Parenthood in Portland. Those who oppose abortion have the right to make their case – but not when doing so crosses the line from free expression to disruption.

In the lawsuit, filed this week, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills accuses Brian Ingalls of yelling about “murdering babies, aborted babies’ blood and Jesus” so loudly Oct. 23 that, from the sidewalk, he could be heard inside Planned Parenthood’s second-floor counseling and examination rooms.

The shouting, according to the lawsuit, violated the Maine Civil Rights Act, which protects people getting medical care from noisy disturbances. The state has requested that Cumberland County Superior Court bar Ingalls from coming within 50 feet of the 443 Congress St. facility.

Ingalls’ attorney called the complaint a “blatant and shameful” violation of her client’s First Amendment rights. But when they’re occupying a public space – like a sidewalk – critics of abortion have plenty of ways to make their views known. They can hand out written material. They can hold up signs and placards. And they can speak to other members of the public.

What they can’t do is bring their opinions into a private space – such as a medical examination room. That’s what Ingalls is accused of doing Oct. 23. He was so loud, said Planned Parenthood staff, that they called police, but he began yelling again even after an officer told him he was being too noisy.

His persistence, according to the lawsuit, “demonstrates his intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services at Planned Parenthood.” In this case, the din reportedly made it harder for health care workers to communicate with patients in consultation rooms – which can, in turn, keep patients from taking in the information they need to make good health decisions.

And excessive noise activates the hormones that are part of our bodies’ “fight or flight” response, thus aggravating the stress many of us already feel at the doctor’s office.

Nobody is stopping those who gather outside Planned Parenthood from speaking their piece about abortion. But they’re not allowed to do it in a way that keeps those inside Planned Parenthood from obtaining care. That’s the real constitutional violation, and that’s what Maine’s attorney general is, justifiably, taking action to prevent.

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