Central Valley Right to Life group claims vaccine protection law prohibits freedom of speech – Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register

Right to Life

John and Barbara Willke came up with a strategy to reverse Roe v. Wade. Many anti-abortion activists think their plan is about to pay off.


A new California law aimed at protecting the public and front line workers from being harassedwhile getting and administeringvaccineshas turned into a freedom of speechbattle for one Fresno anti-abortion group.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled in Right to Life of Central California versusBontathat Senate Bill 742likely discriminates against Right to Lifes outreach to women.

The law was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October.

Free speech won the day not just for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California," said Denise Harle, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom."We applaud the courts decision to protect the First Amendment rights of every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint, and halt enforcement of this unconstitutional state law."

The bill was designed in the COVID-19 era and aims to protect the rights of people to get vaccinated, while preserving the right of protesters to assemble.

The law bans certain free-speech activities when a speaker is within 30 feet of another person and that other person is in a public way or on a sidewalk area and within 100 feet of the entrance or exit of a vaccination site and is seeking to enter or exit a vaccination site.

Right to Lifeis located next to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Fresno, which also administers the HPV vaccine.Under the law, Right to Life staff and volunteers are banned from speaking with potential clients outside itsfacility because the two organizations share a sidewalk.

SB 472 also makes it a misdemeanor to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct people on their way to get vaccinated. Those found guilty of breaking the law face amaximum $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Right to Life is not the only organization to voice its concern with the measure. Many have questioned whether SB 472 violates the First Amendment.Free speech advocates including First Amendment Coalitions Glen Smith believe the 30-foot barrier is "excessive and out of compliance with court rulings."

However, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who authored the bill, said SB 472 gives local officials the tools they need to protect patients and frontline workers when getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine.

"Health care workers administering vaccines and saving lives need local officials to have SB 742 to keep them and their patients safe from extremists who obstruct and threaten people with violence and loss of privacy for participating in COVID-19 vaccination clinics," Pan said in October.

The court order stated that the defendants arguments demonstrate that SB 742 is so vague that it is conducive to different and conflicting interpretations on what conduct is even prohibited by its terms.

Right to Life shares free resources, provides support services, and offers informational leaflets while standing on the public sidewalks in front of its Outreach Center and between the Outreach Center and Planned Parenthoods property, according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The court granted the anti-abortiongroups request for a temporary restraining order to halt enforcement of discriminatory parts of the law against any speaker while the lawsuit moves forward.

The court rightly acknowledged SB 742s double standard in restricting prolife outreach while permitting other types of speech, such as picketing about a labor dispute,"Harle said. "We are thankful Right to Lifes staff and volunteers can continue their critical mission of serving vulnerable women in the central California region with their free, life-giving services.

Sheyanne Romero covers Tulare County public safety, local government and business for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @sheyanne_VTD. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.

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Central Valley Right to Life group claims vaccine protection law prohibits freedom of speech - Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register

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