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Pro-life group wins as court blocks new California abortion law

California pro-lifers scored a major legal victory just before Christmas. On December 23, a federal court granted Life Legal’s motion to block enforcement of a law that criminalizes First Amendment activity outside most abortion clinics.

The law, SB 742, makes it illegal to approach a person or occupied vehicle within 30 feet of the entrance to a “vaccination site” for the purpose of obstructing, injuring, harassing, intimidating or interfering with that person. A “vaccination site” is defined as a location offering any type of vaccine services, which includes Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities that dispense Gardasil and other STD vaccines.

The organization sued California Attorney General Rob Bonta as soon as the law was passed 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 could be illegal under the new law.

READ: New California law requires menstrual products in men’s restrooms

Last week’s court order is the first step in permanently striking down the California law. Life Legal will be back in court to argue specifically how the law violates the Constitution. In the meantime, the court ruled that SB 742 is unconstitutionally broad because “it would be nearly impossible to have any sort of conversation or exchange within a 30-foot buffer zone.” The court also held that the law is not content-neutral because it targets only certain types of speech. Laws that are not content neutral are subject to the highest level of judicial scrutiny.

SB 742 also has been challenged in another case in which the court blocked only the prohibition on harassing but left the rest of the law and its harsh criminal penalties in place. In contrast, the court in Life Legal’s case ruled that because our lawsuit challenged all of the law’s provisions, “SB 742 must be enjoined in its entirety to protect the First Amendment interests of Plaintiffs and the public.”

“Life Legal is pleased that the court has carefully considered our arguments and has determined that we are likely to succeed in our lawsuit challenging this unprecedented suppression of speech on public sidewalks,” Katie Short, chief legal officer of Life Legal, said. “We are confident that California’s assault on the First Amendment will be permanently struck down.”

–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice

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