The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case Monday involving a Maine pastor who is accused of yelling so loudly that he disrupted abortions at a Portland Planned Parenthood.
The AP reports the high court refused to hear the Rev. Andrew March’s appeal, a decision that allows a lower court ruling – and a law restricting free speech – to remain in place.
March often preaches outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Portland. He is the pastor of Cell 53 church in Lewiston, Maine.
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. He allegedly violated the Maine Civil Rights Act, which prohibits intentionally making noise that is loud enough to disturb the goings-on within a medical facility.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said the law is unconstitutional because it only restricts certain points of view. The group argued that a pro-abortion speaker outside of a Planned Parenthood building would not violate the law because his speech doesn’t have the “intent” to oppose abortion.
“It makes no sense for the government to say that only ‘noise’ with a particular viewpoint is a problem,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in 2017. “Maine’s law is unconstitutional on its face because it allows officials to censor speech based on its point of view rather than any objective criteria.”
A federal judge sided with March in 2016, but the state appealed and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling.
According to ADF, the 1st Circuit decision “poses a particularly serious threat to First Amendment rights because of the context from which it arose. Other states and localities will look to the Noise Provision as a blueprint for silencing disfavored speech outside of abortion clinics and elsewhere—unless this Court reverses. Core First Amendment rights will be lost.”
Thomas More Society, which also filed a friend of the court brief in the case, previously explained the problem with the law in an analogy:
“Imagine three drummers standing outside a Planned Parenthood, drumming away at an equal volume for equal amounts of time—and loud enough to disturb the services inside the facility. One practices his skills to audition for a band. Another shouts, ‘Keep abortion legal!,’ at the top of his lungs. The third drummer, hoping to deter abortion-minded women, repeats, ‘Overturn Roe v. Wade,’ in a normal conversational tone without amplification. Under the noise provision clause in the Maine Civil Rights Act, only the third drummer would be cited for violating the law.”
The AP reports the U.S. Supreme Court justices did not comment when they rejected the appeal Monday.
But Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion business in America, did.
According to the report:
A Planned Parenthood of Northern New England official said the appeals court made it clear that people have the right to health care without the interruption of protesters.
“Once our patients walk through the doors of our health center they are entitled to care without harassment and intimidation shouted from the street below,” said Nicole Clegg, the organization’s vice president of public policy.
The city of Portland and Maine 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.