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Couple sues city over buffer zone

PORTLAND (WGME) -- A couple from Shapleigh is now suing the city of Portland, and challenging the new rule keeping protesters back from a downtown abortion clinic.

Daniel and Marguerite Fitzgerald claim the new 39 foot protest buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood office is unconstitutional, violating their free speech.

The couple is naming the mayor and eight city councilors as defendants. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England says anti-abortion protesters have been confrontational and threatening to their patients.

Patients were being harassed and intimidated on their way into the health center.  The protesters would form a tight knit gauntlet where they would yell at patients, take their photo, take videos, create a really intimidating environment for patients trying to access health care," said Eric Covey of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood expects the courts to uphold the buffer zones as not only constitutional, but necessary to protect patients. There are similar buffer zones in other parts of the country. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on a similar, precedent setting case now before the justices.