The following comes from a Sept. 3 story by Heather Knight for SFGate.com.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen later this month will introduce legislation modeled on a new law in Massachusetts that attempts to preserve a buffer zone in front of clinics that offer abortion and other reproductive services, despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking such zones down.
The difference in both the new Massachusetts and San Francisco versions is that the zone would only apply once a problem occurs – such as a police officer determining that an antiabortion protester is harassing a woman seeking an abortion – and would not exist at all times. The officer could then order the protester to move 25 feet away from the clinic or face arrest.
“Access to reproductive health and family planning are things the mayor thinks are very important for San Francisco families,” said Lee’s spokeswoman, Christine Falvey. “He wants to make sure the city does all it can and should to protect those rights for women in San Francisco.”
San Francisco officials in 1993 created an 8-foot “bubble zone” around anyone within 100 feet of a health care facility, but Supervisor David Campos last year argued that was ineffective because antiabortion protesters stood in one place rather than coming within 8 feet of people entering clinics.
He sponsored legislation last year that was adopted, creating a 25-foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits and driveways of reproductive health facilities. But the Supreme Court earlier this year struck down Massachusetts’ 35-foot no-protest zone around clinics, saying it violates protesters’ free speech.
San Francisco officials have been searching for a way to legally protect women entering reproductive health clinics since then – and have anticipated that their own 25-foot buffer zone could be subject to a lawsuit by antiabortion protesters.
Police Chief Greg Suhr, meantime, has been attempting to crack down on harassment outside Planned Parenthood on Valencia Street and similar clinics by using a 20-year-old section of the city’s municipal police code that prohibits “aggressive pursuit … with the intent to cause annoyance, intimidation or fear on the part of the person being pursued.”
The section can refer to following or harassing somebody. Violators are subject to fines and a six-month jail term.
The new legislation, being crafted by the city attorney’s office, would combine that penal code section with the buffer-zone idea. It would allow police officers to implement a 25-foot buffer zone outside a clinic if they determine that aggressive pursuit or harassment is taking place. Most likely, the clinic staff would call the police department when they spot such behavior outside….
To read the original story, click here.