Abortion protests are no longer permitted in front of clinic entryways.
A new law in Maine has been instituted to prevent protests outside of the state’s abortion facilities. Supporters believe it will allow these clinics to provide health services by allowing him to have a “medical safety zone” extending 8 feet (from the entryway. Protestors will no longer legally allowed within this zone, as they have been previously and can no longer intentionally block the entrances or threaten patients. If the Maine law is broken, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Rep. Jay McCreight (Democrat), said her proposal will “provide important protections so that people will no longer be repeatedly and intentionally obstructed from receiving the health care they want and need.”
At the time it was being rolled out, McCreight said, “This proposal will protect patients’ right to access health. It also protects the constitutional right of free speech and of protest. Safe, unimpeded access to chosen health care must be a priority.” It quickly gained the backing of Democratic Governor Janet Mills.
Maine is one of four states with legislation creating what lawmakers have referred to as a “bubble zone,” restricting protests outside of clinic entries, according to a 2019 report by the Guttmacher Institute. The law applies to “a building in which patients receive health services,” but a public hearing on the bill in March focused primarily on those that perform abortions. The Maine Women’s Lobby previously issued a supporting statement, “The right to peacefully protest does not extend to interfering with the rights of others to access services.”
The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, led by Regina Rooney, testified that lawmakers should “consider ways to improve civil enforcement of the rules.” The coalition testified that it is unable to support the expansion of the state’s criminal code. Rooney testified that Maine has “only just begun reckoning with the unintended consequences of relying too heavily on the criminal legal system to solve society’s problems.”
“I’ve been called a murderer, sinner, and accomplice to murder, and have been told that I am wicked, evil, disgusting, and destined to burn in the fires of hell for all eternity,” said Marian Starkey of Falmouth, Maine, a decade-long volunteer at the Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic. “It’s quite a spectrum of verbal assaults.”
She pointed out that Planned Parenthood also offers contraceptive counseling, sexually transmitted disease testing and reproductive examinations. Oftentimes, patients who come in for any of these services, who are not there to get an abortion, are the target of misinformed protestors.
In fact, volunteer Ann Brandt has been escorting patients in and out of the Portland clinic for five years, saying unmasked protesters regularly come within inches of anyone entering the building, causing many patents to become emotionally distressed, especially during the pandemic.
Vermont’s House of Representatives approved a proposal in February 2022 to amend the state constitution to include a “Reproductive Liberty” that is slated to be voted on in November. In Kentucky, a federal judge temporarily blocked a state law eliminating abortions, while New Hampshire made abortion after 24 weeks this year, but later added an exception to the ban for cases in which the “fetus has been diagnosed with abnormalities incompatible with life.”