No longer protected by a 25-foot no-protest zone, the Planned Parenthood on Valencia Street reports that harassment and intimidation of patients and staff has escalated. It even goes as far as one protestor snapping photos of people entering the building, writes regional President/CEO Heather Saunders Estes in an email.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court shot down a Massachusetts law that provided a buffer zone around clinics, calling it unconstitutional. It created a 35-foot space between a clinic’s entrance and protesters outside chanting, passing out literature, and, at its worst, blocking patients from going inside.
In 2013, San Francisco enacted a 25-foot buffer zone ordinance, modeled closely after the Massachusetts law.
As the Chronicle reports, Saunders Estes wrote a letter to City Attorney Dennis Herrera demanding that the city step in to help. When staffers call the SFPD about incidents at 1650 Valencia Street, they're being told that there is "there is nothing they can do.”
“Your office continues to dither,” Saunders Estes wrote, citing that since the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, other California cities "have come out in strong defense of their ordinances.”
Herrera responded that his office is working with legal experts to figure out how to move forward, while Supervisor and Assembly candidate David Campos said police are waiting on the city to make a "policy decision on how to proceed."
According to NPR, clinics in many cities, including Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, have put their buffer zones on hold, waiting to see if the Senate will pass a new bill that orders unruly protesters to stay 25 feet away from an entrance for eight hours.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has launched an online petition asking that leaders "protect San Francisco women when they seek reproductive health care."
Update: Planned Parenthood's Bay Area chapter asks volunteer escorts to sign up here.