Court Says Police Can Use Noise Ordinance to Silence Pro-Life People Outside Abortion Clinics

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 9, 2017   |   10:48AM   |   Augusta, Maine

Police may force pro-life protesters outside abortion facilities in Portland, Maine to be quiet under a state noise ordinance, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

In the past few years, pro-life advocates and local officials have been involved in a number of legal battles about the pro-lifers’ outreach to women outside the Planned Parenthood in Portland. In 2016, a judge ruled that the city could not enforce the noise ordinance against Andrew March, pastor of Cell 53 Church, who regularly protests outside the abortion facility with members of his church.

However, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling this week, Bangor Daily News reports.

The three-judge panel ruled that the noise ordinance is constitutional and can be enforced because it is non-discriminatory.

“The noise provision was the product of a careful legislative process,” Judge David Barron wrote. “That process sought to forge a consensus among many competing interests in order to address what all parties to this dispute agree is a serious concern regarding the health and safety of those seeking health services.”

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The case began when March said Portland police violated his right to free speech by telling him to quiet his voice because it could be heard inside the abortion clinic. The ordinance in question is the Maine Civil Rights Act, which makes it a violation to intentionally make noise that can be heard within a medical treatment facility.

The case is part of a larger situation involving pro-abortion state Attorney General Janet Mills and another pro-life advocate 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.

According to the Thomas More Law Center, a pro-life legal firm representing Ingalls and March, the attorney general’s legal actions are based solely on 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, who represents the pro-lifers, argued that he was being silenced specifically because of his pro-life position.

On Tuesday, Oliveri told the local newspaper that she could not comment because she had not read the appeals court’s decision yet.

“But even if the law is constitutional, the way it is enforced may not be, she said,” according to the report. “Oliveri still could file motions for reconsideration or seek a full panel review, which would delay enforcement of the noise provision.”

State Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who was involved in the case, said she was pleased by the appeals court’s decision.

“Protest are fine but once patients have run the gauntlet outside the clinic, once the door to the exam room or the consultation room is shut, that should be a sanctuary,” Robbin said. “People shouldn’t be barraged with screaming while obtaining medical care.”

Abortion is not medical care, though. It is killing a human being’s life, and that is what March, Ingalls and the other pro-life advocates hope to share with women on the sidewalks in Portland before it is too late.

The city and state have been trying to censor pro-lifers in a number of ways. In 2013, the Portland City Council enacted a 39-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics at the urging of Planned Parenthood, LifeNews previously reported.

A judge struck down the ordinance after pro-life advocates sued. An agreement reached in 2016 in U.S. District Court required the city to pay $56,500 in legal fees to pro-lifers, according to the Bangor Daily News.