Sacramento City Council Revises Ordinance Addressing Protests Near Reproductive Health Clinics
Sacramento City Council members have revised a city ordinance on reproductive health clinics to include similar provisions as a Colorado U.S. Supreme Court decision on a Colorado law that prohibited protesters from approaching within eight feet of another person for speech-related purposes as they enter or leave a clinic, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The original city ordinance was "much more expansive," and created a 20-foot no-protest buffer zone around reproductive health clinics and doctors' offices where abortions are performed, according to the Bee (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 10/27).
Under the original city ordinance, if protesters crossed the buffer zone, they could have been charged with a misdemeanor and faced fines of as much as $500 and imprisonment in a county jail for as long as three months. Police enforcement of the ordinance led two abortion rights opponents to file a federal lawsuit against the city. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that police threatened them with arrest for distributing pamphlets and displaying protest signs (California Healthline, 8/2).
U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell in a hearing on the issue was "severely critical" of the original ordinance and on July 29 barred application and enforcement of the ordinance as it was written, according to the Bee. The plaintiffs dropped the lawsuit earlier this month, saying their relationship with police officers has improved since the hearing.
Dana Cody, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, "Generally, we're happy with the new ordinance. I guess the test will be how it's applied."
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Dana Williamson said, "Anytime there are protesters and two points of view, people on both sides will exercise their constitutionally protected rights to free speech" (Sacramento Bee, 10/27).