PORTLAND (AP) — Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is applauding approval by a Portland City Council committee to create a buffer zone around a Maine clinic to separate anti-abortion protesters from patients.

The council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved establishing a buffer zone on Tuesday after hearing from about 40 people who backed the measure, including some who said they’d been harassed and threatened by protesters.

No one at the meeting spoke against the proposal.

Protesters have said in the past that they are simply exercising their First Amendment free speech rights and would bring legal action if a buffer zone is established.

The proposal will go to the council for a final vote, tentatively on Nov. 18.

Planned Parenthood officials said the zone would safeguard patients.

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