Pro-Life Groups Sue California Over Vaccine Protest Prohibitions That Shelter Abortion Providers From Legal Protests

A new lawsuit in California filed by pro-life organizations claims that a new mandate put in place by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and the state government is designed to impair the exercise of free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment outside abortion facilities.

While the law appears on its face to prohibit protests outside of facilities that administer COVID-19 vaccinations, the lawsuit alleges that the actual impact of the law is at clinics like those run by Planned Parenthood.

Newsom signed the new law on October 8. It prohibits protestors from approaching anyone, including persons inside cars, within 100 feet of a vaccination facility. The law’s stated purpose is to protect persons obtaining vaccines from encountering protests within a “buffer zone” of the place where they are to receive their shot.

However, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers qualify under the statute as “vaccination providers.” The effect of the law is to prohibit assembly and free speech outside of abortion clinics.

The public interest law firm Alliance filed the federal lawsuit for Defending Freedom on the lead plaintiff Right to Life Central California. The organization’s offices are next door to a Planned Parenthood facility in Fresno. It alleges that the new law will unconstitutionally restrict their ability to speak and minister to women on their way to the clinic.

In a statement, Right to Life said that their right to offer charitable services on the public sidewalk and parking lot outside their own office is impaired by the law.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Denise Harle, said that women dealing with unplanned pregnancies “deserve to have full support and resources” in making choices about their unborn children. She added that the state of California is “working hard to silence the voices,” advocating for their needs. She also pointed out that the new law allows lawful protests outside of labor disputes while targeting persons “serving vulnerable women and children” in California.