U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen has sided with Thomas More Law Center and pro-lifers in ruling that a buffer zone around a local Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland, Maine, violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The 2013 ordinance required pro-life protesters and sidewalk counselors to stay 39 feet from any of the building’s entrances, exits, or driveway. In response, Thomas More filed a lawsuit on behalf of the free speech rights of pro-life activists, including Daniela and Marguerite Fitzgerald and Leslie Sneddon.
“Close proximity to the abortion clinic permits them to speak to women considering abortion in a normal, conversational tone, and to offer them information about alternatives including adoption, as well as financial and emotional support,” Thomas More explains.
The proceedings coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously striking down Massachusetts’s 35-foot buffer zone law in June 2014, though the City of Portland refused to recognize the decision as requiring them to relent on its own restriction. Just last week, the city finally admitted it violated pro-lifers’ free speech rights and agreed to pay them damages.
“The City of Portland enacted its ordinance because it didn’t like the message pro-lifers were communicating outside of the City’s Planned Parenthood abortion clinic,” Thomas More attorney Erin Kuenzig commented. “There was never any legitimate reason for banning peaceful, law-abiding citizens from using the entire public sidewalk surrounding the downtown building that houses Planned Parenthood. Hopefully, this judgment will deter the City from trampling the constitutional rights of its citizens in the future.”