Pro-Life Advocates File Lawsuits Against New CA Bill Restricting Free Speech at Abortion Clinics

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SACRAMENTO, CA – Pro-life advocates filed two First Amendment lawsuits earlier this month to stop the enforcement of a bill Governor Gavin Newsom signed to restrict free speech outside any business or medical facility administering vaccines, including abortion clinics. 

SB 742, sponsored by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and approved overwhelmingly by a Democrat-dominated state legislature, gives anyone entering a vaccination site a 30-foot bubble zone to protect them from physical intimidation or harassment. But according to the lawsuits, the bill’s definition of harassment is so broad that it outlaws constitutionally protected sidewalk conversations and free speech activities, like handing out leaflets and holding signs.  

Planned Parenthood, Family Planning Associates, and other abortionists dispense STD vaccines, including Gardasil, which makes them “vaccination sites” for the purpose of the law. Violation of SB 742 is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months imprisonment in county jail, or both. 

“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 Defense Foundation Chief Officer Katie Short, who filed her lawsuit in federal court to protect the free speech rights of three Californians. “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.”

One of Short’s clients is Wynette Sills, Director of Californians for Life and co-leader of the 40 Days for Life campaign in Sacramento. The international organization 40 Days for Life holds bi-annual 40-day long prayer and community outreach vigils outside of abortion clinics. Until the end of October, there are vigils going on outside of 60 California abortion clinics with volunteers offering women coming for abortions information on life-giving alternatives. Sills has been doing sidewalk counseling outside of Sacramento’s Planned Parenthood abortion clinic for the past 17 years. 

“Young men and young women are alive today, finishing up their high school careers, because someone was there at the public sidewalk when their mothers were in need of help, resources, and support, so desperate they were considering ending the lives of their children through abortion,” Sills explained. “All of these California cities will be severely and detrimentally impacted by this new law, SB 742, which will prohibit our life-saving ministry and restrict our free speech.” 

A similar lawsuit against SB 742 was filed on behalf of Right to Life Central California in Fresno by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, and the sanctity of life. ADF attorneys believe 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.

“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.”

ADF has its first hearing is set for Thursday, October 28 at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Dale Drozd in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. Life Legal Defense Foundation has its first hearing before Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on October 27, 2021 at 03:30 p.m.

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