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Last week, a federal court vindicated pro-life activists by striking down a California law that made it illegal to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of abortion clinics under a “vaccine” law.
The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, in 2021, was originally enacted to guarantee and secure public access to COVID-19 vaccinations without intervention by protestors. However, the California legislature later amended SB742 to preclude any “vaccination site” or entity offering vaccine services from being protested. Conveniently, Planned Parenthood, Family Planning Associates, and other abortion facilities fall under the “vaccination site” umbrella as long as they dispense STD vaccines like Gardasil.
Lawmakers specifically outlawed “harassing,” which was re-defined as any event in which a person gets within 30 feet of another person or occupied vehicle within 100 feet of a “vaccination site” for the purpose of “passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with, that other person in a public way or on a sidewalk area.”
Anyone in violation of this activity would face a $1,000 fine or up to six months in prison, including pro-life activists who frequently participate in these newly-banned activities outside of abortion clinics. Interestingly, other California laws define harassment as “seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing,” which seemed to conflict with California’s new definition.
Immediately following Gov. Newsom’s stamp of approval, Life Legal Defense Foundation, a pro-life law firm, brought the new California law to federal court in Aubin v. Bonta to challenge its constitutionality. The case represents pro-life sidewalk counselors whose ability to speak with abortive women, provide literature, and display signs offering abortion alternatives was compromised by the law.
The law firm noted that SB742 was “in effect, a gift from lawmakers to abortionists who wanted to squelch pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights.”
To the benefit of California pro-lifers, the Supreme Court set a precedent for the case in 1963 when it struck down restrictions on free speech in NAACP v. Button. The Court held that “precision of regulation must be the touchstone in an area so closely touching our most precious freedoms.”
Thanks to Life Legal’s efforts, U.S. District Judge Nathanael M. Cousins ruled that “the prohibition on ‘harassing’ in the statute violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” He also argued that “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”
The Life Legal lawyer who presented the case before the court, Katie Short, reacted to the decision by saying,
“We are pleased that the court emphasized the unconstitutionality of the legislature’s shameless abuse of the term ‘harassing’ to encompass protected speech and activities. At a time when all manner of liberties is in jeopardy, pro-lifers — even in California — can be assured that federal courts have not wholly abandoned fundamental First Amendment principles.”
It should be no surprise that a law like this, which squelches pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights, would come from the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has a history of supporting radical laws that infringe on basic constitutional freedoms and has managed in very short order to create the most anti-life state in the union, signing, among many, a law that repeals the requirement that a coroner hold an inquest for any deaths known or believed to be the result of criminal abortions by abortionists.
In some ways, SB742 was unprecedented given the scope of efforts that it banned. Criminalizing the distribution of leaflets, engagement in conversation, and placement of signs in efforts to protest the slaughter of a group of targeted people are state actions only seen in Communist and other totalitarian nations. Governments such as these thrive on silencing dissent and forcing Christians into underground churches.
Today, as the left is succeeding in reframing basic constitutional freedoms, such as insisting that “speech is violence” and “disagreement is hate,” the move to censor and attack Christians is becoming more commonplace in our homeland.
As of late, Americans are realizing that not it’s not just pro-abortion activists and corporations doing this. The U.S. government also seeks to undermine and persecute the Christian faith. As just one of many examples, while Jane’s Revenge, Antifa, and other left-wing terror groups were firebombing pro-life pregnancy resource centers and attacking Catholic churches across the country, all of them clearly intended to intimidate, the Biden Department of Justice was out raiding the homes of pro-lifers and charging them with federal FACE Act violations for praying outside of abortion clinics.
The California law, now thankfully struck down, echoes the exact same anti-Christ sentiments, as it places a target on the backs of Christians who desire to see the end of the slaughter of the preborn.
Scripture says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Christians know this when they step onto the sidewalks in front of abortion clinics, and they rightly recognize that the Gospel is the only thing that will cause a woman to turn to salvation in Christ and repent of her decision to abort her baby.
There are countless stories of women who chose life as a result of Christians “harassing” them by preaching the hope of the Gospel, providing them with resources for alternatives, and giving them literature to help them understand what abortion really entails. Countless babies’ lives are saved as a result of the efforts of these bold men and women.
It is a tragedy that the government would even attempt to silence these individuals who have been sovereignly used by God as a catalyst to save women and their babies from the horrors of abortion. Fortunately, a federal judge in California refused to acquiesce to the pressure of a tyrannical government and stood up for the Constitution and the rights of pro-lifers to speak truth and life to any who would hear.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.