The Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, today, filed a federal lawsuit against the Maine Attorney General, the City of Portland, Maine and several Portland police officers to stop enforcement of a portion of the Maine Civil Rights Act (“Act”). Under the Act, it is illegal to make any noise that can be heard inside an abortion clinic after being warned by a police officer. A Portland police officer officially warned Pastor Andrew March that employees could hear his anti-abortion message inside their facility and in so doing paved the way for a State lawsuit against him under the Act.
As a result, TMLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pastor Andrew March to stop enforcement of the Act as a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. Pastor March is the father of three children and the founding preacher of a church in Maine. He feels called by God to oppose the culture of death and to work to end the murder of his fellow citizens behind the walls of Planned Parenthood. When the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against his friend and fellow preacher Brian Ingalls under the Act, he took up his mantel and began to preach outside the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. Andrew March not only wants to save lives, but also wants to give women a last chance to avoid the enduring physical and psychological harms caused by abortion.
The Portland Planned Parenthood is located on a busy public thoroughfare, which, in addition to usual street sounds such as sirens, honking, and other traffic noises, hosts city parades and protests by hundreds of yelling and chanting people. Yet, among this cacophony of sounds, Planned Parenthood claims the lone, unamplified voice of Andrew March interferes with its abortion services.
Planned Parenthood, assisted by the Maine Attorney General and the City of Portland, is using Maine’s Civil Rights Act to silence all Pro-Life speech in front of its facility by claiming to hear it within the building. TMLC’s lawsuit contends that the Act is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and is being used to target and silence the Pro-Life viewpoint. In fact, amid the far louder traffic and city-approved parades, police officers enforcing the statute admit that it is the Pro-Life content of Andrew March’s speech that allegedly interferes with abortion counseling and procedures within the building.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, commented on the lawsuit: “Our lawsuit is based on the bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that government, in this case the State of Maine and the City of Portland, cannot ban Pro-Life speech just because they disagree with its content or find it offensive.”
TMLC recently defeated a previous attempt by the same Planned Parenthood facility to silence Pro-Life speech. On Oct. 8, the U.S. District Court in Maine entered a consent judgment in which the City of Portland agreed that their 39-foot “buffer zone” silencing Pro-Life speech within the vicinity of Planned Parenthood was unconstitutional. In light of the City’s defeat, Planned Parenthood and the City of Portland seem to be going through a list of Maine’s laws to intimidate and silence Pro-Life speech. After charging Brian Ingalls and warning Andrew March under the Act, police officers are now threatening Andrew March with criminal charges for disorderly conduct—all this despite the fact that both preach peacefully and respectfully from the Bible.