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Planned Parenthood asks Burlington for protection from protester - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Planned Parenthood asks Burlington for protection from protesters

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Patients walking into Planned Parenthood this past week may have noticed protestors or people passing out pro-life literature were a lot closer than they have been for the past two years, and now Planned Parenthood is looking to the Burlington City Council to help change that.

Planned Parenthood says for its patients, it was 35 feet that made all the difference.

"It's been a great balance of access to free speech and access to health care," said Jill Krowinski of Planned Parenthood.

But now there will be no measuring.

"We've gotten many complaints from patients saying the protestors feel a lot closer and why is that, they are being approached a lot more closely by the front door when they weren't before," said Krowinski.

Burlington is no longer enforcing its buffer zone around Planned Parenthood following a Supreme Court ruling in a Massachusetts case last week. That means protestors can get as close as they want to people entering the clinic as long as they are not blocking access to the door.

For Agnes Clift, who has been praying and attempting to speak with patients outside the Burlington clinic for 10 years, this was a victory. Wednesday afternoon she was happy to be back, right in front of the building.

"We are very encouraged. We feel like it was a victory because it spoke directly to the kinds of activities that we're interested in, speaking one-on-one to women encouraging them to consider other options," said Clift.

But Planned Parenthood says it will fight for more protection for their patients and that starts with the Burlington City Council.

"The council in the past has shown very strong support for protecting the rights of women and I'm sure going forward that's what we will do again to the best of our abilities," said Joan Shannon, D-Burlington City Council president.

Shannon says at next Monday's meeting they will likely vote to make changes to the ordinance, while making sure they still fall in line with the Supreme Court's decision. And Planned Parenthood says that's a first step toward righting an egregious wrong.

"Obviously nothing is going to be perfect because the Supreme Court basically gave protestors the ability to harass patients, so unfortunately there's no 100 percent fix, but we can make tweaks to the zone to make it stronger for our patients," said Krowinski.

Planned Parenthood says that in other states, things like 6- to 8-inch bubble zones around a specific individual and smaller buffer zones have been upheld. Those types of changes could be worth exploring with the City Council.

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