Attorney General Mills joins effort to defend ?buffer-zones? at reproductive healthcare facilities

November 21, 2013

(AUGUSTA) Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is supporting an effort to defend buffer-zones at reproductive healthcare facilities in a case before the United States Supreme Court, likely to be argued in early in 2014.

Attorney General Mills today signed onto an amicus brief in the case of McCullen v. Coakley, which will review a Massachusetts law establishing a 35 foot public safety buffer-zone around the entrances and driveways of reproductive healthcare facilities in that state. The Massachusetts law is in many ways similar to a recently enacted ordinance in the City of Portland.

?A woman has a right to access healthcare without fear and harassment,? said Attorney General Mills. ?The Massachusetts statute simply seeks to enhance public safety near reproductive healthcare facilities by establishing a clear and valid framework for any protected free speech activities that others seek to exercise in the vicinity. The statute was upheld upon appeal and I believe the Supreme Court will find this statute to be constitutional.?

The amicus brief, circulated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, argues that states must have flexibility to protect access to healthcare facilities, that the Massachusetts buffer-zone law is a valid ?time-place-manner? restriction that reasonably addresses the distinctive history of congestion at healthcare facilities and that the buffer-zone law is content neutral.

Many reproductive healthcare facilities have been the scenes of competing protests. The buffer-zone simply clears a way for patients and employees to safely enter and exit, minimizing the likelihood that opposing protestors will escalate their demonstrations to physical violence. All free speech activities are allowed outside of the very limited buffer-zone.