PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Law enforcement authorities cannot use a noise provision in the Maine Civil Rights Act to restrict anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic in Portland, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled in favor of a Lewiston pastor who said his rights were violated and that he was targeted because of his views.
The Rev. Andrew March sued after the attorney general used the state law to prevent a church member from getting too close to the Planned Parenthood clinic.
In granting a preliminary injunction, Torresen left the door open to other options to prevent noisy protests as long as no single group is targeted.
"I conclude that the state has not shown at this stage of the proceeding that the noise provision is necessary to serve its interest in protecting its citizens' ability to receive safe and effective health care," she wrote in her decision.
The attorney general's office said it's considering an appeal.
"The office continues to believe that this statute, carefully drafted and supported by diverse interest groups, is a reasonable accommodation of free speech," said spokesman Tim Feeley.
This isn't the first challenge of restrictions on demonstrations outside the clinic.
Last year, the city settled a lawsuit filed by anti-abortion activists challenging an ordinance that established a 39-foot no-protest zone around the clinic. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling established that a similar no-protest zone in Massachusetts was in violation of free speech rights.