A federal judge in Maine sided with a pro-life protester on Monday after police targeted him outside of a Planned Parenthood in Portland last year, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Andrew March, pastor of Cell 53 Church, regularly protests outside of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic with other pro-lifers from his church. He said police wrongly violated his right to free speech by telling him to quiet his voice because it could be heard inside the building.
On Monday, Judge Nancy Torrensen ruled in March’s favor and ordered a temporary injunction to stop the city police from enforcing a state noise control law against him, according to the report. The law in question is the Main Civil Rights Act, which states that it is a violation to intentionally make noise that can be heard within a medical treatment facility.
“The case presents the difficult question of whether a state law providing protection to women seeking access to constitutionally-protected health case violates the First Amendment rights of an individual who wishes to voice is opposition to abortion on a public sidewalk,” Torresen said in her decision. “I conclude that it does.”
The case is part of a larger situation involving pro-abortion state Attorney General Janet Mills and another pro-life protester from March’s church, Brian Ingalls. Mills filed a lawsuit against Ingalls in November, alleging that he also violated the rights and safety of patients in the second story of the abortion facility where his voice was heard, LifeNews previously reported.
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According to the Thomas More Law Center, a pro-life legal firm representing Ingalls and March, the attorney general’s legal actions are only based upon Planned Parenthood’s complaint to the Portland Police Department. The legal firm said the state attorney general is clearly biased in her actions, seizing an opportunity to silence the pro-life message.
March’s case was a counter-lawsuit to Mills’, according to the local newspaper. Kate Oliveri, the attorney from Thomas More who represented March, argued that he was being silenced specifically because of his pro-life position.
The victory on Monday only applies to March. In her ruling, Torrensen seemed hesitant to side with March. She suggested that the state could pass “content-neutral legislation that can achieve the goal of a peaceful environment for people receiving health care.”
Ingalls’ case is pending. In March, a judge denied his motion to dismiss the lawsuit, LifeNews reported. His lawyer, Stephen Whiting, argued “the Attorney General’s Office failed to identify any patients or employees inside the Planned Parenthood clinic who were harmed by Ingalls’ preaching, and that Ingalls didn’t hurt or threaten anyone, damage anything or trespass,” according to the local news report. However, the judge rejected the argument.
The lawsuit comes just after pro-lifers in Portland won a battle against a city buffer zone ordinance.
At the urging of Planned Parenthood, the Portland City Council enacted the 39-foot “buffer zone” in November 2013, LifeNews previously reported. The Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit to stop the Maine city’s unconstitutional restriction of pro-life speech; and a judge later struck down the ordinance. An agreement reached on Oct. 8 in U.S. District Court requires the city to pay $56,500 in legal fees to pro-lifers, according to the Bangor Daily News.