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Federal judge: Noise law cannot be used to silence Planned Parenthood protesters

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On Monday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen issued a preliminary injunction rejecting an effort to quash pro-life protests using a Maine noise reduction law.

The office of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills had attempted to use the law to force Brian Ingalls, a pro-life member of the Cell 53 church,  to stay at least 50 feet away from a Portland Planned Parenthood facility for allegedly yelling loud enough to be heard from the facility’s second story.

In response, Cell 53 pastor Andrew March sued, contending that the state was violating pro-lifers’ free speech. Torresen concluded that Mills was enforcing the law in a discriminatory way by singling out pro-lifers, and that the law “violates the First Amendment rights of an individual who wishes to voice is opposition to abortion on a public sidewalk.”

In her ruling, Torresen noted that the state had alternate means  at its disposal for punishing misconduct outside of abortion facilities, such as disorderly conduct and harassment laws, or enacting “content-neutral legislation that can achieve the goal of a peaceful environment for people receiving health care.”

However, while the ruling applies to March’s case, the case against Ingalls remains pending and will be heard by Justice Lance Walker. How exactly Torresen’s ruling will impact that case remains unknown.

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