(Burlington, VT)- Planned Parenthood of Northern New England applauds the Burlington City Council for unanimously passing amendments to strengthen the buffer zone ordinance to protect patients from harassment from protestors. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot zone around reproductive health centers in which no protests or demonstrations were permitted. The Burlington City Council then followed suit and revised the Burlington Buffer Zone Ordinance to allow protests and demonstrations within 35-feet of a reproductive health center. The court’s failure to uphold an essential public safety measure left few options to protect patients at the Planned Parenthood Burlington Health Center and Planned Parenthood began to see an increase in protest activity.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the safety and privacy of our patients,” said Jill Krowinski, VP of Education and Vermont Community Affairs. “Our patients have complained about being approached or followed by protestors after asking to be left alone, being videotaped or photographed, hearing shouting from the protestors in the waiting room, and having experienced stress because of the protestors’ presence and attempts to engage them. What we have from the ordinance committee is a tough compromise on what little options the Supreme Court case gave us. To be clear, this only slightly mitigates the problem, but it is a first step in the right direction.”
The proposed amendment creates a definition of harassment that will prohibit acts like following someone in a threatening way or using abusive language, continually attempting to talk with someone after they have said they don’t want to be engaged, intentionally touching someone or making threatening gestures. Secondly, the amendment gives police authority to make repeat offenders move back 25 feet for 12 hours.
October 21, 2014