With the repeal of Portland’s buffer zone, dozens of protesters escalated their activities outside Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Portland health center on Congress Street in early August, requiring the intervention of the Portland Police Department.
According to Planned Parenthood spokesperson Nicole Clegg, protester obstructed access of the sidewalk and health center entrance, and police issued multiple warnings to protesters who were loud enough to be heard clearly within exam rooms. Clegg called the actions ” a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.”
More than thirty protesters lined the street videotaping and photographing patients and pedestrians as they walked along the sidewalk on Friday, August 8th. The next day, police were contacted again when more than a dozen protesters lined the sidewalk near the entrance of the health center and were asked to stop obstructing access along the sidewalk.
“When the buffer zone was in place, we were able to operate in a peaceful coexistence with the protesters,” said Clegg. “Since its repeal, the atmosphere has returned to one of routine harassment, bullying and intimidation of patients and pedestrians alike.”
Massachusetts Governor Patrick signed into law ‘An Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities’, and the City of Burlington, Vermont is considering alternatives in response to recent protester activity. New York City, Los Angeles, Colorado and other communities have various ordinances in place to ensure the peace and security of reproductive health care facilities.
Clegg said harassment and privacy invasions are distressing and frightening not only for women seeking abortions, but also for the men and women going to the health center for cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatments of STDs, breast health services, pap tests, sexual health education, information, and health counseling, which comprise more than 95% of the services provided at PPNNE.