Oakland Officials To Revise ‘Medical Safety Zones’ Ordinance
Oakland officials are holding off on implementing an ordinance that would establish "medical safety zones" around reproductive health clinics, following a recommendation from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Breyer questioned whether the city would be able to legally defend the ordinance (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/21).
Abortion-rights opponents on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in federal court over the ordinance, which would keep protesters at least eight feet away from women, staff or escorts entering reproductive health facilities. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to block the ordinance (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/20).
The Oakland City Council's Public Safety Committee unanimously approved the ordinance in October. The measure imposes penalties of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000 for violators (California Healthline, 10/25). The City Council gave final approval to the ordinance on Tuesday (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/20).
Per Breyer's recommendation, lawyers for the city on Jan. 15 will present amendments to the ordinance to make it "content neutral." According to Alex Katz, spokesperson for the Oakland city attorney, the ordinance will maintain the eight-foot "medical safety zone" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/21).
Katie Short, legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, filed the suit against the city on behalf of a Union City resident and other individuals who distribute anti-abortion rights literature. Short said the ordinance unlawfully singles out abortion-rights opponents.
John Russo, city attorney, said activists are free to distribute literature in other locations, adding, "What they cannot do is harass or intimidate women who are exercising their right to choose and right to privacy" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/20).