No-protest zones at SF women’s clinics almost law

Anti-abortion protestors who post outside reproductive health clinics in San Francisco may have to work a little harder — and yell a little louder — to get their message across.

A proposal to enforce a 25-foot no-protest zone around entrances of women’s health facilities heads to the SF Board of Supervisors for approval on May 7. The law would also protect exits and driveways of such facilities.

Since 1993, a law has been on the books that creates an eight-foot “bubble zone” around anyone within 100-feet of a reproductive health clinic to protect them from activists. But Supervisor David Campos, who authored the pending legislation, believes the “bubble zone” is hard to enforce and doesn’t do enough to protect women from harassment.

He told SF Gate:

“The war on women is alive and well, and we’re seeing it here in San Francisco.”

One institution that backs the proposal is Planned Parenthood, which has experienced escalated violence against its clinics throughout the nation.

Phyllis Schoenwald, vice president of medical services at Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific, said patients have faced an “ongoing, unacceptable level of bullying and intimidation” outside the center. She told BCN:

“Many of our patients walk through our doors crying and confused by the pamphlets they have been given [by anti-abortion activists].”

At Thursday’s City Hall hearing, Campos presented the proposal to the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee in front of supporters and detractors. Planned Parenthood workers showed up in pink shirts to support the legislation, while several anti-abortion activists denied harassing women during demonstrations.

Anti-abortion activist Nora Dougherty said the ordinance would violate her freedom of speech:

“It’s going to stop us from handing out literature to women in need. I understand they’re afraid and abortionists have been killed, but a buffer zone isn’t going to protect them.”

The legislation is expected to pass since a majority of the Board of Supervisors have already signed on as co-sponsors of the law.

Campos told BCN:

“They don’t have the right to intimidate women, that’s what this is about.”