Patients seeking vital healthcare during a global health pandemic should not face continual harassment by armed, anti-abortion extremists breaking state and local laws, while the police stand by. But, that’s what’s been happening outside a Spokane medical facility.
So, we filed a complaint on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho to protect the right of patients to access medical care and the right of staff to serve their patients without disruption.
An anti-abortion group calling itself “The Church at Planned Parenthood” (TCAPP), which is associated with several alt-right extremist groups, has been holding massive rallies (or as TCAPP calls them, “services at the gates of Hell,”) outside of the Planned Parenthood health center in Spokane for almost two years.
The group, which includes hundreds of participants, shouts and blasts music through enormous loudspeakers just feet away from where patients are receiving care, with the goal of harassing and intimidate patients and staff. In so doing, the group has repeatedly violated Spokane City municipal code and a Washington state law that prohibits willfully or recklessly disrupting the normal functioning of a health care facility by “making noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”
Meanwhile, the police have stood by and refused to take any action against the group to enforce the law.
TCAPP, now affiliated with Rep. Matt Shea, who engaged in domestic terrorism according to an investigation commissioned by the Washington state House, held another rally last night, featuring Joey Gibson, the founder of “Patriot Prayer,” a hate group associated with the Proud Boys, who is currently under felony indictment from the Multnomah County District Court for involvement in an altercation in Portland where a female customer was beaten unconscious and had her vertebrae broken.
Planned Parenthood respects the right to protest and peaceful assembly, but the First Amendment does not protect conduct that is intended to interfere with patient care. These are not preachers, but bullies intent on waging a holy war against contraception and abortion.
Planned Parenthood provides vital care to a diverse community of patients, one quarter of whom are Black, indigenous, people of color during a global pandemic. Protecting access to this care is particularly critical during a global pandemic that is disproportionately impacting these communities. People who seek care at Planned Parenthood have the same right as all Washingtonians to access healthcare without unreasonable disruption or interference.
TCAPP has terrorized patients and staff long enough. It is time for TCAPP to be held accountable.
Many thanks to our Board President-elect Vicky Slade, of Davis Wright Tremaine, who is serving as our cooperating counsel, and our rock star summer intern, Ashley Beeman, whose work on the case has been stellar.
Photo credit: American Life League