The following comes from a March 17 story on SFGate.com.
Antiabortion protesters will no longer be able to stand directly in front of Planned Parenthood and other San Francisco clinics that offer reproductive services if one city supervisor has his way.
Supervisor David Campos is planning to introduce legislation Tuesday that would create a 25-foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits and driveways of those facilities, excluding hospitals. He and supporters of the proposal say it would spare women who use the facilities from harassment.
“We respect the right of people to have freedom of expression,” Campos said. “What is happening is more than that – it’s intimidation.”
A city law passed in 1993 created an 8-foot “bubble zone” around anyone who is within 100 feet of a health care facility, but Campos said that has been ineffective. Demonstrators, he said, get around the law by staying in one spot and not approaching clinic visitors.
Protests at the city’s only Planned Parenthood location, at 1650 Valencia St., prompted Campos to consider the legislation more than a year ago. Since the facility opened in 2011, officials there said antiabortion activists have yelled slogans like “If it could talk, it would say, ‘Mommy don’t kill me’,” while taking pictures and video of staff members and patients.
“Our clients were coming in crying,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Adrienne Verrilli, who added that abortions account for less than 2 percent of patient visits. “We don’t want to get to the point where someone gets hurt.”
Planned Parenthood says the problem has escalated recently as some protesters have entered the waiting room. The staff called police last month when a protester walked in, woke up a woman sleeping in a chair, and told her to give up her baby for adoption instead of aborting it, despite not knowing why the patient was visiting.
A handful of protesters, and as many as 20, gather on weekdays outside Planned Parenthood. On a recent afternoon, Ron Konopaski and five other abortion opponents stood on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, clutching rosary beads near posters of fetuses and the Virgin Mary, and signs reading “Women do regret abortion.”
“I think it’s stupid,” said Konopaski, a 79-year-old retired dentist, of Campos’ proposal. “There’s no harassment whatsoever.”
Konopaski said he is careful to keep his feet planted to avoid violating the bubble zone. An antiabortion activist for decades, he said he will greet most people approaching the clinic with a “good afternoon” or “good morning” and offer them pamphlets on the dangers of abortion.
“We’re here to help the woman in any way we can and save the baby from being killed,” he said.
The penalty for breaking the ordinance would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail or a $500 fine. A second offense would double the potential punishment.
Campos said he expected legal challenges, but noted that attempts to fight other buffer-zone laws have failed. In Boston, a federal appeals court upheld a 35-foot zone around reproductive health clinics in January, ruling that “the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter health care facilities cannot seriously be questioned.”