When last we checked in with the Planned Parenthood on Valencia Street, they said that harassment and intimidation of patients and staff had escalated since a 25-foot buffer zone was no longer in effect due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that called these no-protest areas unconstitutional. Now, as the Chronicle reports, city officials are working on a new law that would implement a temporary zone to protect clinic visitors and staff from problem protesters.
Cities and states across the country have scrambling to preserve buffer zones around abortion clinics after the June ruling that Massachusetts could no longer enforce its law which put a 35-foot space between a clinic’s entrance and protesters outside. San Francisco had enacted a 25-foot buffer zone ordinance in 2013 that was similar to the Massachusetts law the Supreme Court struck down.
In July, Massachusetts' governor signed a law allowing police to step in if anti-choice protestors were trying to block people from entering or exiting a clinic. Those protestors are forced to move 25 feet away from the clinic until the end of business day.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera is modeling San Francisco's legislation on this Massachusetts' law, also citing the city's municipal police code that "aggressively" following or harassing someone is subject to fines and jail time. It will likely be the clinic's responsibility to call the police should these types of incidents occur, which the Mission Planned Parenthood has reportedly already been doing over the past few months. One protestor has even gone as far as taking photos of people going into the Valencia Street clinic.
While Planned Parenthood staffers previously said the SFPD was telling them there is "there is nothing they can do," now Police Chief Greg Suhr says that they are using the municipal code to crack down on the situation. There's no word on whether anyone has been arrested, but the maximum punishment is six months in jail.
Meanwhile, creative counter protests have been taking place outside the Valencia Street clinic.