Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) won a preliminary victory on Saturday against the state of California regarding SB 742, the law which restricts pro-life free speech outside of abortion clinics. The federal court granted ADF’s client, Right to Life of Central California, its request to halt enforcement of the unconstitutional law.
“We’re encouraged by this preliminary victory. The courts correctly recognized SB 742 as a Trojan Horse attempting to block freedom of speech and assembly for pro-life Californians,” said California Family Council President Jonathan Keller. “CFC repeatedly warned both the legislature and the governor about these unconstitutional provisions. Hopefully, Sacramento will finally get the message that they can’t silence the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with them.”
According to United States District Judge Dale Drozd, Right to Life of Central California is “likely to show that SB 742 is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest of ensuring access to vaccination sites. Thus, [Right to Life] has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its First Amendment freedom of speech claim.” The judge went on to say, “the court is persuaded by [Right to Life’s] argument that the irreparable harm caused to it by SB 742 is particularly acute because ‘SB 742 came into effect in the middle of Right to Life’s participation in the biannual 40 Days for Life campaign,’… and [Right to Life] ‘will never get back the opportunity to reach each woman who enters Planned Parenthood Fulton during this time without hearing Right to Life’s message.’”
SB 742, sponsored by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and approved overwhelmingly by a Democrat-dominated state legislature, states that certain messages are prohibited from being shared by individuals within 100 feet of a vaccination site and within 30 feet of another person. While it may appear that this law applies to only Covid-19 vaccination sites, it stretches beyond that: any vaccination falls under the law’s coverage, including those such as HPV vaccinations and others that are offered by Planned Parenthood, as well as supermarkets that may offer vaccinations like the flu shot. This directly impacts pro-life activists as they are limited in their ability to speak to women entering pro-abortion facilities and hinders their ability to reach out to women prior to them participating in irreversible procedures.
The Right to Life group that filed this lawsuit speaks to women who are entering Planned Parenthood facilities and offers them “life-affirming” help and does not offer any information regarding vaccines. However, under this new law, such actions including sidewalk prayer would subject these activists to the potential for a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail. Because the law restricts individuals’ constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and speak to their fellow citizens, this lawsuit requested and was granted a temporary hold on its implementation in order to allow more time for the legal system to determine its constitutionality.
“Free speech won the day not just for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California. We applaud the court’s decision to protect the First Amendment rights of every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint, and halt enforcement of this unconstitutional state law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “The court rightly acknowledged SB 742’s double standard in restricting pro-life outreach while permitting other types of speech, such as picketing about a labor dispute. We are thankful Right to Life’s staff and volunteers can continue their critical mission of serving vulnerable women in the central California region with their free, life-giving services.”
A similar lawsuit was also filed by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, urging the court to consider whether such an infringement on free speech by pro-life activists is constitutional. It cites the unrealistic approach of creating no-speech zones around drugstores, supermarkets, and other vaccination sites as “over-inclusive and overbroad” and speaks of the dangers of such restrictions.
The California Family Council helped organize some of the opposition testimony against SB 742, as the bill made its way through the California legislature.