A federal judge has partially blocked a new California law banning protests near facilities offering vaccinations.
U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd ruled that the law, known as SB 742, could be used to thwart pro-life protests at Planned Parenthood clinics, where vaccinations against the human papilloma virus (HPV) are administered.
Judge Drozd, an Obama appointee, said the state has a “compelling interest” in ensuring people receive a COVID-19 vaccination unhindered, but “SB 742 is not narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”
The law was enacted last month with the intent to protect facilities offering vaccination against COVID-19.
The Right to Life of Central California had sued state Attorney General Rob Bonta over SB 742, arguing that the new law could be cited to bar legal pro-life demonstrations near an abortion facility.
The law’s prohibition of certain free speech activities when a speaker is within 30 feet of another person who is “in a public way or on a sidewalk area” and “within 100 feet of the entrance or exit of a vaccination site and is seeking to enter or exit a vaccination site” was overbroad, the pro-life group’s attorneys argued.
Attorney Denise Harle of public-interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom said the court acknowledged a “double standard in restricting pro-life outreach while permitting other types of speech, such as picketing about a labor dispute.”
“Free speech won the day not just for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California. We applaud the court’s decision to protect the First Amendment rights of every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint, and halt enforcement of this unconstitutional state law,” Ms. Harle said.
State Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who has long advocated against vaccine exemptions, introduced the measure specifically to protect distribution of COVID vaccines.
“Health care workers administering vaccines and saving lives need local officials to have SB742 to keep them and their patients safe from extremists who obstruct and threaten people with violence and loss of privacy for participating in COVID-19 vaccination clinics,” Mr. Pan, Sacramento Democrat, said in a statement.
The Washington Times reached out to Mr. Bonta’s office for comment.