On Tuesday, a federal appeals court affirmed the right of patients in Maine to receive medical care without noisy disruptions from anti-abortion protesters. The three-judge panel overturned a lower court ruling, which found that a provision in the Maine Civil Rights Act used to control the volume of anti-abortion protesters outside health clinics was likely unconstitutional, reports Christina Cauterucci.
“This week’s decision concerns the case of Andrew March, a man in his 20s who regularly stood outside a Portland, Maine Planned Parenthood health center and shouted religious invective at patients inside,” says Cauterucci.
The appeals court noted that the noise provision did not limit speech, as the previous ruling claimed, only the volume and location of the protest — a protest which, in turn, would likely interfere with other citizens’ rights to constitutionally protected health care procedures.
Ever since “the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law,” notes Cauterucci, “that established no-protester ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics, health facilities that provide abortion care have had few legal options for protecting patients from external threats to their physical and mental health.”
Tuesday’s ruling offers some hope.