Life Legal filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging a new California law that will suppress pro-life speech outside abortion mills. Using the threat of COVID as an excuse, the Legislature enacted a breathtaking restriction on speech that will ban core First Amendment activity in numerous locations across California.
The law, SB 742, was signed by Governor Newsom on Friday. While SB 742 started out as a bill to restrict protests concerning COVID vaccines, it was amended to cover every location where any type of vaccine is provided. Planned Parenthood, Family Planning Associates, and other abortionists dispense STD vaccines, including Gardasil, which makes them “vaccination sites” for the purpose of the law.
The law makes it a crime to approach within 30 feet of another person who is within 100 feet of a “vaccination site” for various purposes, including obstructing, which is already illegal, and “harassing”– a term the legislature has redefined to include everyday free speech activity.
SB 742 defines “harassing” as “knowingly approaching, without consent, within 30 feet of another person or occupied vehicle for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with, that other person in a public way or on a sidewalk area.”
This contorted – and unconstitutional – definition of criminal harassment is only found in this statute. Other California laws define harassment as “seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing.” This is what most people think of when they think of harassment – NOT handing a leaflet to someone, providing education and counseling, or holding up a sign.
Life Legal is filing the lawsuit on behalf of pro-life sidewalk counselors who regularly speak with women entering “vaccination site” abortion clinics, and who provide literature and display signs offering help with abortion alternatives – all activities that may be illegal under the new law.
Creating no-approach zones around every abortion facility, drug store, stand-alone health clinic, and supermarket in the state is unconstitutionally over-inclusive and overbroad,” said Life Legal Chief Officer Katie Short. “In an age of unprecedented incursions on freedom, this law is an unheard-of restriction on core First Amendment activities, and we are confident that the federal court will strike down SB 742.”