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Pro-Life Free Speech Victory: California to pay over $190k to settle lawsuit

A pro-life organisation, known as Right to Life of Central California, has had $192,706 worth of attorneys’ fees agreed to be paid by California state officials. 

This decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the organisation in October 2021 by the nonprofit religious rights law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), concerning a freedom of speech battle between the pro-life organisation and the state of California. 

The lawsuit was filed roughly this time two years ago after California Governor Gavin Newsom, of the Democratic Party, signed SB 742 into law, thus making it illegal to approach a person within 30 feet of “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”, with “a vaccination site” being defined within the legislation as the “physical location where vaccination services are provided, including, but not limited to, a hospital, physician’s office, clinic, or any retail space or pop-up location made available for vaccination services.” 

Violation of the law was deemed punishable by “a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both”. 

The issue here, as presented by ADF, is that Right to Life Central operates its charitable services on the public path outside their Outreach Center, which happens to be beside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic that also offers the HPV vaccine. Therefore, SB 742 would fully restrict Right to Life Central’s ability to carry out their work and provide their services, such as free resources and informational leaflets, to women in need. Right to Life’s main method of reaching out to women considering abortion is thought it’s Outreach Center. “The Outreach Center's parking lot is adjacent to Planned Parenthood's parking lot, and the two organizations share a sidewalk. Right to Life's staff and volunteers speak kindly and peacefully with others at a normal conversational distance to share their charitable support services.”, reports CBN. 

The state of California ended up settling the lawsuit with the pro-life organisation, with one of the conditions being that the state would not enforce any part of the discriminatory law against them, or any other speaker in the state.

"Women facing unplanned pregnancies deserve to have full support and resources available to them when they choose life for their unborn children, yet the state of California unconstitutionally tried to silence the voices of those advocating on their behalf," stated Denise Harle, ADF Senior Counsel. "This is a significant victory not only for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California," 

Harle added. 

"The First Amendment protects every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint. Now Right to Life's staff and volunteers can continue their critical mission of serving vulnerable women in the central California region with their free, life-giving services."

California Family Council released a statement where they referred to the settlement as a victory, not just for pro-life citizens of the state, but for all Californians:

"This is a victory not only for the pro-life movement in California, but for the First Amendment rights of all Californians. SB 742 is a clear violation of constitutionally protected free speech. The government has no authority to determine where free speech, a God-given right, begins and ends," read the statement.


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