Patient Safety Zone Law Passes in Portland, Maine

On Monday night, the city council of Portland, Maine, unanimously passed a law requiring a 39-foot “buffer zone” around the city’s only abortion clinic, which will protect patients of the Planned Parenthood clinic from harassment by anti-choice protesters.

Cheers erupted when the ruling was announced at the hearing, which was packed with supporters wearing pink t-shirts. More than 120 supporters attended, with 27 testifying in favor of the buffer zone, Eric Covey, grassroots organizer with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told RH Reality Check.

The patient safety zone ordinance was passed as an amendment with an emergency preamble, which means it took effect immediately.

“As of right now, patients won’t have to deal with intimidation, harassment, or concern for safety while accessing quality reproductive and sexual health-care services at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England,” said Covey.

Patients and employees of the Planned Parenthood have said they faced a weekly “gauntlet” of harassment from protesters with the Pro-Life Missionaries of Maine. Patients frequently canceled appointments and reported fearing for their safety, despite a police presence on-site.

One local business owner, Mike Fink, closed his restaurant because of the incessant protest activity. “It didn’t make sense to keep selling sandwiches with kids holding posters of dead babies out front,” he told RH Reality Check last month. Fink had also led counter-protests against the anti-choice activists.

City Council Member Ed Suslovic said in the meeting that the ordinance is a “very careful balancing act” between protesters’ rights to free expression and the patients’ rights to safely access health care.

Buffer zone laws have been upheld three times by the Supreme Court, but the legality of Portland’s ordinance could depend on whether the court rules in favor of a Massachusetts buffer zone law.

“We feel very confident that the existing case law supports patient safety zones, and that the courts will continue to rule that access to reproductive health care is a protected right,” said Covey.

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  • jovan1984

    I know that a lot of you wanted to know why the Portland government chose 39-foot instead of 40-foot for the buffer zone. Simple. 39 is divisible by three, 40 isn’t. Just so you know, the length that is buffered is a yard longer than a 2-point conversion attempt, including the end zone.

    • cjvg


      • jovan1984

        There are three feet for every yard.

        • cjvg

          But why go with a football ruling?
          Is the whole Portland government football fanatics, or are you suggesting they are trying to make some subtle nebulous point?

          • jovan1984

            I am only suggesting they are making a nebulous point.

          • cjvg

            Sorry, that one went straight over my head
            i’m too literal my spouse always tells me, word jokes are usually a no go to (but that might be because I was raised in a very literal non English language, however i’m getting better after 20 years here)

          • dildo depot

            You are dutch right?

          • cjvg

            Yes, for instance we do not have hospitals (at least we do not call them that) we have ziekenhuisen (sickhouses is the exact translation, ziek = sick and huizen = houses)

            This type of pragmatism and literalism in our language is the norm, not the exception. This pretty much illustrates how literal (and quit formal) the dutch are

          • dildo depot

            I love how you showed mr_cris to be a liar months ago when he claimed to be dutch and then used terms such as ‘you suck’ and so on :P No dutch person would ever do that!

            Years ago I had a friend on IRC who was Dutch. Funniest dude I ever knew. And better at typing English than most native english speakers!

            And a great attitude regarding sex. He made a great joke once, about how Dutch sex ed involves the school district sending a prostitute to your house;P

          • cjvg

            Sex is not really a big deal to us (at least not in the shaming and controlling way Americans are raised)

            We (pretty much) all do it and most of us prefer to do it in private without the government or our neighbors/strangers dictating how what and where it is allowable and acceptable.

            Like every other body function it should not be under external controls as long as you are not trying to hurt others with it. (but again that falls right back on not usurping control of another’s body function)

            No one would condom regulating the ability, frequency and circumstance in which someone (just to get a bit graphic here) can blow their nose, void their bowels, go pee etc., so what in the world makes some people think that it is acceptable to do so in the case of sexual function?!

          • dildo depot

            i adore long winded responses.

            I always learn something new.

          • cjvg

            Thanks again, I do not hear that very often (grin)
            Seems we got something else in common