Vt. Antiabortion Protesters Sue City Over Buffer Zones Around Women's Clinics

September 24, 2012 — Six abortion-rights opponents have filed a lawsuit against the city of Burlington, Vt., alleging that an ordinance requiring them to stay 35 feet away from reproductive health care clinics violates their right to free speech, the Burlington Free Press reports.

The city council in July approved the 35-foot perimeter to protect patients' privacy and right to medical access.

The suit claims that the council is discriminating against protesters based on their opposition to abortion rights and asks the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional. It also requests that the city pay "nominal damages for the past violations of [the plaintiffs'] constitutional rights" and legal costs.

The six women filing suit have regularly participated in demonstrations at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England clinics, according to the Free Press. Jill Krowinski, director of public affairs for PPNNE, said the protests often were intimidating to visitors to the clinic and threatened patient privacy.

No hearings have been scheduled, and the city has not yet filed a formal response with the court. Eileen Blackwood, a city attorney, said the city believes the ordinance is constitutional (Banner Baird, Burlington Free Press, 9/20).