On Monday, the Portland City council voted to create a 39-foot Free Speech “buffer zone” around Planned Parenthood to prevent protestors from standing outside the door. As a patient, I have entered Planned Parenthood with my heart was stuck in my throat as I passed by protestors with bloody signs. However, I have two questions about creating “buffer zones” in our city. Can this ordinance prevent me from exercising my first amendment right to hold up a sign saying, “I support Planned Parenthood” next to the door, or is this ordinance only for “offensive speech?
My second question: Can other non-profits, organizations, or corporations in Portland now seek protestor boundaries or “free speech zones”? During the height of the Occupy movement, protestors in Portland stood outside Merrill Lynch and Bank of America to call attention to the billions syphoned out of the world’s economies during the 2008 recession. Buffer zones could be used by banks to keep protestors 39-feet away from their doors. This year, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge on the constitutionality of buffer zones around abortion clinics when it takes up McCullen v. Coakley.