A Planned Parenthood clinic in Walnut Creek has become the Bay Area’s ground zero in a renewed conflict between abortion supporters and opponents, as sidewalk protests intensify and women must navigate through the commotion to get inside.
The encounters have gotten so heated that the City Council is looking into establishing buffer zones to keep protesters 30 feet away from the clinic’s patients, a tactic similar to what the city of Napa recently did, but one which has raised legal questions in the past. San Jose established a buffer zone at all reproductive health centers in the late 1990s, although the minimum distance then was set at eight feet.
“There’s a strong correlation to this anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood emboldened attitude of protests that seems to be galvanizing across the country,” Gilda Gonzalez, Planned Parenthood’s regional president, said in linking the trend to the Texas law and former President Donald Trump’s appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices.
Though protests are a regular sight in front of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, the demonstrations that crowd a narrow sidewalk in front of the Oakland Boulevard building in Walnut Creek, often blocking the driveway, have definitely heated up, witnesses say. The protesters say they are encouraging women to “choose life,” but that’s not how the clinic’s supporters see it.
“The protesters use bullhorns to harangue and read scripture to everyone present,” Ogie Strogatz, a Planned Parenthood volunteer who escorts women into the clinic, told the City Council earlier this week. “This is harassment, it’s an abuse of a most precious (First Amendment) right.”
One of the main organizers of abortion protests at the Bay Area’s Planned Parenthood sites and across the nation is 40 Days For Life, which was founded in Texas.
The group, which has a Walnut Creek chapter, lists on its website a running count of the “lives saved” by convincing women not to go through with an abortion, as well as the number of “abortion workers” who have quit their jobs as a result of the campaign.
After receiving multiple requests for an interview, 40 Days For Life said in an email there are “two distinct and separate groups who may appear on some days out on the sidewalk” at the Walnut Creek clinic. The group did not immediately respond to a follow-up request for more information about other Planned Parenthood demonstrators who aren’t affiliated with the campaign.
“40 Days for Life is, and will remain, committed to being a peaceful, prayerful presence for life on the sidewalks,” the organization said. “We are out there in prayer, and to offer women support and alternatives to abortion, if they wish.”
The group also attached a “statement of peace” that it says vigil participants must sign. Among a long list of promises, those signing the statement agree not to block driveways or use violent language, and to “pursue only peaceful, prayerful and lawful solutions to the violence of abortion.”
Full story at Mercury News.