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Pro-Life Sidewalk Ministry Wins Free Speech Case Against California Law

After Right to Life of Central California filed a lawsuit, California state authorities have agreed to respect the organization’s freedom of speech and pay $192,706 in attorneys fees.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented the pro-life organization, filed the lawsuit in October 2021. It was prompted by Governor Gavin Newsom’s enactment of a law that unconstitutionally limited Right to Life’s free speech by establishing censorship zones near any facility offering various vaccines.

“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 unconstitutionally tried to silence the voices of those advocating on their behalf,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “This is a significant victory not only for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California. The First Amendment protects every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint. Now 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.”

California’s Senate Bill 742 prohibited approaching and harassing a person “within 100 feet of the entrance or exit of a vaccination site and is seeking to enter or exit a vaccination site.” Breaking this law was “punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

Right to Life predominantly engages with women contemplating abortion through its Outreach Center, positioned adjacent to the abortion facility of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in Fresno. The organization offers free resources, extends support services, and distributes informative pamphlets on public walkways in front of its Outreach Center and the space between its and Planned Parenthood’s premises. 

The parking lot of the Outreach Center is contiguous to that of Planned Parenthood, and the two entities utilize a common sidewalk. The staff and volunteers of Right to Life engage with others in a courteous and tranquil manner as they offer incredibly helpful support services. 

The lawsuit detailed how SB 742 hindered Right to Life’s capacity to provide charitable services to women in need on the public sidewalk, street, and even within its parking lot, all situated adjacent to a Planned Parenthood abortion facility that dispenses the HPV vaccine.

California authorities agreed to refrain from enforcing the prejudicial sections of the law to Right to Life or any other speaker.

This is a victory not only for the pro-life movement in California, but for the First Amendment rights of all Californians. SB 742 is a clear violation of constitutionally protected free speech. The government has no authority to determine where free speech, a God-given right, begins and ends. 



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