Judge limits new California law to protect vaccination sites


The law that came into effect on October 8 prohibits approaching within 9.14 meters (30 feet) of a person at a vaccination site “for the purpose of hindering, injuring, harassing, harassing, ‘intimidate or interfere with that person’.

US District Judge Dale Drozd on Saturday ruled that the 30-foot limit, which is contained in what he called the law’s “unusual definition of ‘harassment’,” is too restrictive.

He therefore issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from applying the “harassment” part of the law, while leaving in place the prohibition on obstructing, harming, intimidating or intervening.

These other parts of the law “appear to target more specifically the damage that the legislature has sought to prevent and advance the state’s interest in ensuring that Californians have free access to vaccination sites,” he said. .

Opponents said the bill is worded so broadly that it includes any vaccine and can apply to anti-abortion protesters as well.

Alliance Defending Freedom sued on behalf of Right to Life of Central California, which is located next to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic that offers the HPV vaccine against the human papillomavirus, but not the COVID vaccinations. -19.

The anti-abortion group said the law, as drafted, would prevent its members from approaching women on the public sidewalk and on the streets in front of its own apartment building and even in its own parking lot.

The ruling came as the U.S. Supreme Court coincidentally considered Monday whether it would allow legal challenges to a Texas law that virtually ended abortion in the nation’s second largest state after six weeks of pregnancy. .

The problem in California, the most populous state, lies in the legal definition of harassment, which “is much broader than the dictionary definition of the word ‘harassment’,” Drozd said in his 28-page decision.

This includes approaching within 30 feet of a person or vehicle, without their consent, “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or flyer to, displaying a sign at, or engage in oral protest, education or counseling with, that other person in a public path or on a sidewalk.

Further, the interpretation of the law by the State Attorney General, in court records and pleadings, “is so vague as to lead to different and conflicting interpretations of conduct which is even prohibited by its terms. “Drozd wrote.

The office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who has defended the law, did not immediately respond to the ruling.

“Despite these undeniable facts, the court recognizes that COVID-19 vaccines have been the subject of controversy and protests,” he wrote.

Still, the groups said the law violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, religion and association, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s rights to due process and equal protection when it comes to to oppose abortions.

Violators could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $ 1,000. But lawmakers included an exemption for picketing during a labor dispute, which Drozd said created another legal conflict.

“Freedom of speech won the day not only for our client, Right to Life, but for all other speakers in California,” Denise Harle, senior advisor for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement. by restricting pro-life awareness while allowing other types of discourse.

Democratic Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician, prominent immunization supporter and bill author, did not immediately comment.

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