Proposed legislation that would create a 25-foot buffer zone around entrances to facilities that provide reproductive health care was intended, sponsors say, to protect workers and patients from alleged harassment by anti-abortion activists. However, citing free speech issues, at least one lawyer is vowing to sue the city if the law moves forward.
The proposal by Supervisor David Campos, which he said is being co-sponsored by seven other supervisors, comes as a Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia Street has reported constant protesting from anti-abortion groups.
Current city law creates a 8-foot “bubble” around patients entering or leaving a reproductive health care facility, but Campos said that ordinance was hard to enforce and “not sufficient to protect the women.”
He said his new legislation finds a “balance between the right to free speech and the right for women to access health care.”
Campos said San Francisco has “always led the way in protecting civil rights and this is an opportunity to continue to do so.”
Ronald Konopaski, an anti-abortion activist, attended last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting and criticized the proposal.
Konopaski said he has been in front of the Planned Parenthood facility for nearly 40 days and has not seen any problems.
“The sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood is always peaceful,” he said. “This is false, there’s no harassment.”
One long-time protester, Ross Forti, told Mission Local that he would continue to protest nearby regardless of the law.
“I will figure out a way to compensate for that,” he told ML@L regarding the any legally-mandated increase in distance.
One method of compensation might be to take San Francisco to court. Foti’s long-time lawyer, Katie Short of the Life Defense Legal Foundation, says that Forti can easily argue that his First Amendment rights are being violated.
“The city will be sued,” Short told ML@L.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss this proposal next month.