PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Portland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to place a 39 foot buffer for protesters around Planned Parenthood.
Councilors heard nearly two hours of public comment before taking the final vote. The vast majority of those who spoke tonight were in favor of the buffer zone. But for the first time, a handful of people who were opposed also rose to speak, defending the rights of the protesters.
Anywhere between 10 and 25 demonstrators have been standing outside the clinic once or twice a week for about a year and a half now. The city is looking at creating a 39-foot buffer zone around the clinic on Congress Street, forcing those protestors to demonstrate across the street. This ordinance comes to the council with a unanimous 4-0 committee vote recommending it pass.
But the city could get sued, as protestors say it infringes on their constitutional rights.
Deena Metzler is among those who says she has felt intimidated by those protestors. She had an abortion a little more than a year ago, and walked by the group of protestors both going in and coming out of Planned Parenthood. She says no one blocked her way or shouted at her, but she says she felt hurt.
"They make people really uncomfortable, and we don't tolerate harrassment in the workplace or in public schools, but we do in the streets," Metzler said.
Planned Parenthood staff say they have gotten calls from people cancelling or postponing appointments to avoid the protestors. But the protestors themselves say they are not breaking the law. They say they're doing God's work, and the city would violate the first amendment if this buffer zone passes. Leslie Sneddon of Pro-Life Missionaries of Maine said, "We're not stopping anybody from going in and getting their pills, getting their gynocological exams. We're not up at the state house changing laws. Because we're called to proclaim the truth that babies are murdered here."
Sneddon of Pro-Life Ministries of Maine said her group has a lawyer but hasn't decided whether to sue the city if this ordinance passes. She said they may wait to see what the Supreme Court has to say about a similar case out of Massachusetts. The high court is expected to take up that buffer zone law in January.