Groups sue California over vaccine buffer zone that could limit pro-life speech

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Several pro-life groups are suing the state of California over a mandate that prohibits free speech. While the law is intended to prevent people from protesting outside areas where COVID-19 vaccines are being administered, pro-life groups say it is an underhanded way to stop them from peacefully assembling outside abortion facilities, since many Planned Parenthood centers in the state are administering vaccines.

On October 8, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 742, which prohibits protestors from coming within 30 feet of anyone who is within 100 feet of a vaccination facility, including people in cars. While the law was passed under the guise of protecting people from anti-vaccination protests, pro-lifers immediately saw it as a threat. That’s because Planned Parenthood is a protected vaccination site in the state. Now, any peaceful prayer or sidewalk counseling outside its facilities may be construed as “harassment.”

In response, Right to Life Central California, represented by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, filed a federal lawsuit. The organization’s headquarters are right next door to Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s Fresno location, and the two share a parking lot. Right to Life believes that Gov. Newsom’s new law will severely restrict their ability to minister to women who are entering the abortion facility.

READ: California governor signs law helping minors to use parents’ insurance for secret abortions

“This law restricts Right to Life’s ability to peaceably offer charitable services to women in need on the public sidewalk and street outside its own building—and even its own parking lot—because Right to Life is located next to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic that administers the HPV vaccine,” the group said.

“Women facing unplanned pregnancies deserve to have full support and resources available to them when they choose life for their unborn children; yet the state of California is working hard to silence the voices of those advocating on their behalf,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “This new speech ban unlawfully discriminates against the peaceful advocacy of Right to Life, yet other types of speech, such as ‘lawful picketing arising out of a labor dispute,’ are permissible. We are asking the court to strike down this unconstitutional law that violates staff and volunteers’ free speech rights and allow Right to Life to continue its critical role of serving vulnerable women and children in central California.”

Life Legal Defense Foundation is another group that says it is suing the state on behalf of pro-life sidewalk counselors. “Creating no-approach zones around every abortion facility, drug store, stand-alone health clinic, and supermarket in the state is unconstitutionally over-inclusive and overbroad,” said Life Legal Chief Officer Katie Short. “In an age of unprecedented incursions on freedom, this law is an unheard-of restriction on core First Amendment activities, and we are confident that the federal court will strike down SB 742.”

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