Buffer zone ruling
12:38 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Maine Abortion Rights Advocates Decry Court Buffer-Zone Ruling

Abortion-rights advocates in Maine are condemning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today to strike down a Massachusetts law that created 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics.

The ruling is likely to have an impact on a similar buffer zone established around a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Portland.

The court ruled unanimously that the law violated the First Amendment.  But Planned Parenthood of Northern New England spokeswoman Nicole Clegg says the Portland clinic buffer zone, established last November, balances First Amendment rights with the rights of patients.

"We still experience regular protesters at our health center and they are still able to get their message out," Clegg says, in a statement. "What is different since the buffer zone has been enacted is that we no longer see the sort of harassment and intimidation we saw previously. The atmosphere outside of our health center is one of peaceful coexistence - which balances the right to privacy with free speech rights."

Clegg says Planned Parenthood is still examining the ruling to determine how it affects Portland's 39-foot buffer zone around its clinic on Congress Street.

The Portland City Council approved the buffer zone after patients complained that they were being harassed by anti-abortion protesters, and local shop owners said the frequent protests were disrupting their businesses.