California has announced that a pro-life outreach center, Right to Life of Central California, can continue its sidewalk campaign near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Fresno. The decision comes after State Attorney General Rob Bonta stated that his office would not enforce the provisions of a 2021 law that had previously barred demonstrations by the pro-life group.
The law, SB 742, restricted protests near any health clinic offering vaccines, requiring protests to take place 100 feet away from the facility and prohibiting protesters from approaching people within 30 feet of the premises. The Planned Parenthood clinic targeted by Right to Life of Central California provides HPV vaccines. The pro-life group, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the state shortly after Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law.
In a settlement, the state will pay $192,706 in attorneys’ fees and expenses to the pro-life center’s lawyers. This outcome was hailed as a significant victory by the Alliance Defending Freedom, with senior counsel Denise Harle stating that the settlement allows Right to Life to continue its mission of serving vulnerable women in the region.
The lawsuit argued that the law’s restrictions went beyond protests near COVID-19 vaccination sites, as initially intended by State Senator Richard Pan, the bill’s sponsor. Critics pointed out that the law prohibited protests within 100 feet of any vaccination site, carrying potential penalties of up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
By not enforcing the provisions of SB 742, California’s decision allows Right to Life of Central California to continue its outreach efforts and provide the services it believes are essential to the women it serves. The settlement is seen as a victory for the organization and for freedom of speech in the state.