By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,614)
This morning about 25 protestors of the Planned Parenthood Health Care Center on Congress Street observed the 39 ft. Patient Safety Zone passed by the Portland City Council on Monday night. The vote was unanimous to pass the buffer zone. However, the only councilor opposing the emergency preamble recommended by councilor Jill Duson, was councilor Ed “Yea” Suslovic. The emergency preamble put the buffer zone into effect immediately rather than waiting the usual 30-day period. There appeared to be no incidents from todays protestors.
In a related matter, Attorney General Janet Mills today signed an amicus brief in the case of McCullen v. Coakley, which will review a Massachusetts law establishing a 35 ft. public safety buffer-zone around the entrances and driveways of reproductive health care facilities in that state. The Massachusetts law is in many ways similar to the ordinance enacted by the Portland City Council on Monday evening. The Massachusetts case is expected to be reviewed by the US Supreme Court in January with a verdict possibly coming down in June of 2014.
“A woman has a right to access health care without fear and harassment,” said Attorney General Mills. “The Massachusetts statue simply seeks to enhance public safety near reproductive health care facilities by establishing a clear and valid framework for any protected free speech activities that others seek to exercise in the vicinity. The statute was upheld upon appeal and I believe the Supreme Court will find this statute to be constitutional.”
The amicus brief, circulated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, argues that states must have flexibility to protect access to health care facilities, that the Massachusetts buffer-zone law is a valid “time-place-manner” restriction that reasonably addresses the distinctive history of congestion at health care facilities and that the buffer-zone law is content neutral.
Just prior to the City Council meeting on Monday evening, several leaders of the protestors of the Portland Planned Parenthood appeared to back down from their frequent threats to sue Portland should the buffer zone be passed or at the least to stall the group’s response. That led some to speculate that the protestors are waiting to hear the result of the US Supreme Court decision in the Massachusetts case, which could come in June 2014, as stated previously.