PORTLAND, Maine — On Tuesday, the city council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee took a step toward creating a 39-foot buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood clinic on Congress Street.
According to a press release from Planned Parenthood, more than 42 people testified before the committee and more than 80 supporters of the safety zone were in attendance.
“The committee’s vote to have the full city council take action on the safety zone is exciting news,” said Eric Covey of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in the release. “The proposed safety zone protects the privacy and safety of patients and staff, while also preserving the rights of individual freedom of speech.”
“Regardless of the type of care people are seeking, all citizens have a right to a comfortable, quiet, and calm environment free of harassment and intimidation when seeking medical care,” Covey said.
The committee endorsed the buffer zone unanimously. The Portland City Council must make the final approval on the buffer zone, designed to protect patients who say they feel threatened and harassed by anti-abortion protesters who gather around the clinic’s entrance. The council vote is tentatively set for Nov. 18.
Planned Parenthood brought the question of a buffer zone before the committee in July. In a survey of its patients, 150 out of 161 respondents said the protesters made them feel uncomfortable.
Police told the Bangor Daily News that patients have complained of intimidation and harassment by protesters.