Erika Hathaway sits in front of the entrance to Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia Street. A new buffer zone law will prohibit antiabortion protesters such as Hathaway from staying within 25 feet of the facility. Photo by Carly Nairn.

Anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood’s Valencia Street clinic vowed to fight on Thursday despite initial approval this week by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors of an expanded 25-foot buffer zone around reproductive healthcare facilities in an effort to protect patients from intimidation and harassment.

Pending final approval, the expanded buffer zone would replace the current 8-foot “bubble zone” shielding clinic clients from shouts and graphic posters. The San Francisco ordinance would make it a finable offense to protest within 25 feet of clinic entrances, exits and driveways. Violators could face up to three months in jail or a $1,000 fine. Currently, protesters who violate the 8-foot bubble zone receive only a citation.

While demonstrators yesterday blasted the measure  as a violation of their right to free speech, reproductive rights advocates praised its enhanced protection for women. City Hall officials said lawmakers from other states are studying the city’s enlarged buffer zone.

District 9 Supervisor David Campos sponsored the legislation, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. The ordinance was developed in response to issues of harassment by anti-abortion activists in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia Street, though it will apply to all reproductive health care clinics in the city.

“San Francisco has been a leader for protecting individual rights,” Campos said at the board meeting. “We have had a situation where a number of individuals have crossed the line of not just expressing their views, but actually harassing and intimidating women who are expressing their rights.”

Campos stressed the need for a buffer zone law that would also keep intact the First Amendment rights of anti-abortion activists.

“[It] strikes the right balance between protecting the right of individuals to engage in free speech … but also protecting the right of women in these stand-alone clinics to access health care.”

The Valencia Street Planned Parenthood is a frequent target for protesters, who often shout at patients and staff, hand out pamphlets on alternatives to abortion and display grisly signs picturing dead fetuses.

A year in the making, the ordinance expands the current San Francisco law, passed in 1993, which established an 8-foot bubble zone around individuals within 100 feet of a health care facility. The ordinance would also expand on the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it an offense to use physical force or intimidation in order to prevent a person from entering a reproductive health care facility.

Reproductive health and pro-choice advocates say that Planned Parenthood is often one of the few options low-income women have for reproductive health care, contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood representatives claim that one in five women visit one of the group’s 750 affiliated clinics in the United States within their lifetime.

“This is an amazing day for San Francisco,” said Adrienne Verrilli, director of communications for the Valencia Street Planned Parenthood. “Protesters still have room to express their First Amendment rights while giving the space for patients and staff to access the clinic.”

Verrilli and Campos legislative aide Stephany Ashley said that other clinics around the country are looking at San Francisco’s legislation as a way to combat harassment and intimidation.

“People seem to be interested in our success,” said Verrilli.

Officials in Austin, Texas, are considering an ordinance for a buffer zone, Verrilli said. Ashley said that after a hearing about the ordinance held by the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee in April, she spoke with other health agencies in the Midwest that want to implement a 25-foot zone based on San Francisco’s process.

Although many health care advocates view the board’s approval of the iniative as a success, David Trujillo, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood in several Bay Area cities, said that measures adopted elsewhere may vary.

“I think it’s really going to depend,” he said. “It’s going to be [on] a case by case basis and it’s not going to be the answer at every health center. It’s going to be taken up at the local level.”

On Thursday, May 9, a few protesters were out in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia Street. They said they were not deterred by the board’s vote.

“It’s a slow eroding of our First Amendment rights,” said Erika Hathaway, a frequent protester at the clinic.

Hathaway, who sits in a wheelchair while handing out pamphlets, is able to place herself in front of the clinic’s entrance because of a white zone exemption for people with disabilities.

Planned Parenthood gained approval from the city for a white zone space in front of the clinic last year to aid their efforts in moving protesters away from the entrances.

“They make it worse and worse,” Hathaway said of lawmakers and Planned Parenthood. “It will be 35 feet, and then across the street, and then in another state.”

The buffer zone approval comes less than a week after the South San Francisco Planning Commission voted to allow a new Planned Parenthood clinic in that city’s downtown area. The new facility will not offer abortion procedures.

Ross Foti, an outspoken anti-abortion activist, was ejected from Tuesday’s board meeting after being told repeatedly to stop addressing Campos directly as he spoke during the comment period.

Foti, who wore a shirt to the meeting that read “Abortion is Murder,” was also protesting near the clinic on Thursday.

“I’m very upset,” he said of the approval. “It’s unconstitutional and we are going to fight it.”

Both Hathaway and Foti claim they have been issued several citations that have all been dismissed in court.

Recently, members of the religious anti-abortion organization “40 Days for Life” have also protested outside the clinic.

“It’s a remedy,” Verrilli said of the potential for jail time and fines for those who violate the ordinance. “People can make citizens’ arrests.”

Despite the increased risk, Foti said he will continue to protest.

“They could throw me in jail for life,” he said.

The ordinance is slated to come before the Board of Supervisors for final approval at the next scheduled meeting.

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A Modesto, CA native, Carly has been working in the news industry for the past five years. She has worked with The Portland Mercury as an Arts Intern, The San Francisco Bay Guardian as a News Intern, The Lewis County Chronicle in Centralia, WA as a beat reporter, and was the student opinion editor for her undergraduate newspaper, The Daily Vanguard, for Portland State University, in Portland, Ore. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA.

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  1. Ross Foti
    March 28, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    The true agenda of Planned Parenthood!

    Your tax dollars support Planned Parenthood which promotes abortion, permissive sex education, homosexuality, family destruction, pornography, school based linked sex clinics, death inducing chemicals and devices, and population control. Planned Parenthood’s real goals are the following:

    {1} About women and abortion:
    A 1984 ad campaign for Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “If you agree that every child should be loved, shouldn’t you support a women’s right to abortion?” In other words, if a woman feels that her unborn baby will not be loved, be merciful and kill it!
    {2} About chastity:
    Fay Wattleton, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 10/17/86, L. A, Times: “We are not going to be an organization promoting celibacy or chastity.” In other words, let it be a society of decadence and corruption.
    {3} Parental attack!
    Dallas Observer, ad placed by Planned Parenthood, 1/30/86: “If your parents are stupid enough to deny you access to birth control, and you are under 18 years old, you can get it on your own. Call Planned Parenthood.” In other words, let Planned Parenthood undermine and attack parental authority.
    {4} About large families:
    Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood, 1923: “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” In other words, for Margaret Sanger, it is justified to kill and innocent baby because of the threat of poverty and difficult times!
    {5} About race genocide:
    Lastly, Margaret Sanger praised Nazi theories of race superiority and set out to eliminate the human waste, the Blacks and Hispanics. “In other words, certain people have a right to exist and others do not”!

  2. The social gospel that is preached today in most of our churches does not include the ethical issues of the gospel which makes it incomplete and gives it a leftist twist.
    Jesus Christ preached a gospel of social justice and salvation, but it included the Ten Commandments and a moral code of laws of how we are to live our lives in order to earn eternal life in heaven with Him.
    In other words, the full gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached from all the pulpits, not just the gospel of social and economic justice.
    Today, most people have lost the sense of sin and are living outside of the full gospel of Jesus Christ and have developed their own code of laws because they do not hear the full gospel being preached from the pulpits!
    The churches today should be more focused on the ethical issues that threaten our society, sin in all its faces.
    Some of its faces are pornography, immodesty in dress, fornication, premarital sex, birth control, abortion, adultery, divorce, euthanasia, homosexuality, and many other depravities of are Godless society!
    Lastly, sin is the root cause of wars, poverty hunger, starvation, murder, and many other ills of our society. This is why the churches should be focused on the moral ethical issues of today.

    Ross Foti.


    Elizabeth Creely, I readied your e–mail to Elizabeth, a devout, pro–lifer and catholic and, it bother me, very much, of your ill treatment towards her.
    The statement that you made that we pro–lifers have not the right to systematically harass or attempt to deny others their federally guarantee to an abortion, the right to kill an innocent pre–born baby.
    First, we pro–lifers do not harass or intimidate patients at the abortion clinic, but if you consider a pro–lifer telling a patient, on abortion day, not to kill their innocent baby and to respect the babies right to life as harassment or intimidation , this I would consider a gross misinterpretation of free speech! Really, isn’t that what they intend to do. Is it a wrong now to tell the truth without it to being considered harassment?
    Now, Elizabeth, do you really consider to be a devout catholic when you are violating a very important tenet of the catholic faith. Yes, the one that you are violating is the fifth commandment, “thy shell not kill”!
    Are you placing first, the secular laws of the United States Supreme Court decisions above God’s unchanging laws? I certainly hope not. Here is a list of the U. S. Court rulings: {1}1965; the legalization of contraceptives for married couples! (2}–1968; prayer in school was banned! {3} 1972; contraceptives became legal for unmarried couples! {4} 1973; the legalization of abortion! {5} 1986; homosexuality, sodomy, became legal! Also, the court ruled that pornography is legal for adults under the protection of free speech! What a laugh!!!
    Well, the fruits of pornography are fornication, pre–marital sex, adultery, divorce, battered wives, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, homosexuality, bestiality, child abuse, child pornography, child prostitution, serial killers, sexually transmitted diseases, and the list goes on!
    Lastly, Elizabeth, you cannot possibly be in good standing with the Catholic Church if you choose to follow the secular’s laws of our once Christian country in place of God’s unchanging laws! In other words, you cannot serve two masters!!!! We will pray for you that you received the true light and truth!

  4. Erika, the woman in the wheelchair, is a fake.

    She’s a dog walker. She owns and runs the Summerhill Pet Sitting service, based in Belmont.

    Here’s her Yelp page.

    As you can see, she’s right there — walking dogs.

    Here’s a picture of her walking dogs from this Yelp page.

    The wheelchair get-up is completely fake.

    She is not merely “bearing false witness” (to say the least) to gain sympathy. Demonstrators that are disabled are exempt from the rules that keep them beyond a certain boundary.

    She is intentionally pretending to be disabled so that she can avoid the rule that would otherwise keep her beyond the boundary, so she can more easily harass people coming and going from the clinic.

    Does anyone here use Yelp? Maybe someone oughta make a mention of her activities to her potential clients. After all, we have free speech too, right?

  5. You’re more likely to get molested by a public school teacher than by a Catholic priest.
    The priests who were doing the molesting were homosexuals who joined the priesthood for that very purpose.

  6. Mr. Mortimer surely has an agenda, to
    say the least!

    Apparently Mr. Mortimer and Campos
    are afraid of the truth……and the truth
    is abortion is killing a baby! Aren’t you
    both glad your mothers didn’t abort you????

    And Mr. Foti is very Catholic and family
    man who like John the Baptist, tells it
    like it is!!!

    And PLEASE everyone like Mr. Campos….
    speaking as a 4th generation San Franciscan…..leave Our City alone.
    We natives whose families helped buiild
    the City (and it was a beautiful one) before
    all of you came in with your agendas…….

    1. Elizabeth, many of us had family who helped build this city -mine was here, busily building away in the 1850’s (they were Irish Catholic), but that doesn’t give me either the desire or right to sytematically harass or attempt to deny others their federally guarenteed right to an abortion.

      Perhaps you’re the one who should stay home. Lame.

  7. Women should have access to healthcare without being harassed! If you don’t like abortions don’t get one. Good work SF!

    1. It’s concerning that to some people the truth is looked as harrassment. If I shared your viewpoint would you be against me? Don’t you think women should be informed about the dangers of abortion, such as PTSD, premature birth of future children & breast cancer? Don’t you trust that women have the intellegence and capability to make a sound decision, based on the facts? Do you think Planned Parenthood primarily provides health care? They perform over 300,000 abortions per year–that’s their big money maker! They charge twice as much for the Morning After pill (chemical abortion), which has serious side effects, besides killing a baby.

      There was a woman arrested in Canada for praying the Rosary in front of an abortion mill. The grounds were that her praying was making the patients feel uncomfortable–that they were doing something wrong. Our country is heading in this direction.
      Don’t get so caught up in a political ideology. Do some listening. You’d be surprised…

      And yes, taking a human life is wrong!

  8. Today, I would like to set the record straight on why I am a pro–lifer. Also, at the last meeting, Supervisor Campos make some statements against me that were absolutely untrue to destroy my reputation!
    First, Campos said that I was very sensitive about my free speech but, I had no problem intimidating patients and videoing tapering them.
    Second, I would like to know Campos’s interpretation of intimidation? Is it when I tell a patient, on abortion day, please, don’t kill your baby? Well, isn’t that what they intend to do? Is this considered intimidation now for saying the truth? Well, as far as I know, I always thought it was free speech! I think Campos and Planned Parenthood have decided to re–interpret legitimate, free speech and turn it on its head!
    Well, I want Campos and everyone to know that I go to the abortion clinic to protest against the killing of innocent pre-born babies that have the right to life. I do this by offering the patients information so; they could be fully informed and, they could make an informed decision. To say that I go to the abortion clinic to intimidate and harass patients is a blatant lie!
    As far as his accusation that I have no problem violating other people’s rights by video taping them is another lie. The reason why I am video taping at the abortion clinic is that I have been attacked, assaulted, my life threaten, and my posters have been vandalized! By using the video for my protection, it has slowed it down.
    Lastly, by Campos using all these untrue reasons to impose this radical 25 foot buffer zone is just another attack on free speech and our constitutional right to use the sidewalks and streets as podium of protest. What is Campos’s next step against our free speech rights? A total ban!!!!

    Ross Foti

    1. Ross,

      is it true that the root of your problem with Campos is his sexual preference? It would make sense, given your own troubles accepting yourself and the hate and anger that this causes you to spew against women.

  9. Planned Parenthood errs in numerous ways. Contraceptive drugs cause chemical abortions – just read the insert that comes with the drugs. Therefore, by distributing contraceptives, Planned Parenthood already is doing abortions! Then they refer to “reproductive health services” when they are actually causing reproductive DISEASE. These same contraceptives cause cancer (of the cervix, breast &/or liver), strokes (from blood clots) and infertility (if used over long periods of time). Furthermore, it treats fertility as a disease rather than the gift that it is. And for clinchers, Planned Parenthood has been caught repeatedly covering up child abuse, statutory rape, and aiding the sex slave trafficking. How are those actions a service to poor people??

    1. Way to go Patricia – you said it, and said it very well! Yes, treating pregnancy as a disease, and a mother’s baby as something “throwaway” and undesirable, rather than “Motherhood” as a wonderful gift from God. A true mother can even protect her child by giving her child life, and gifting that child to a couple who is able, as she may feel she is not, to care for and provide for and love her child as their own. What profound courage for a mother to act according to her “true” mother’s nature, rather than in every way contrary to her nature as a giver of life. As for Erika and Ross – they are out there to be a “voice” for the voiceless for the innocent babies safe within their mother’s wombs – that is until they enter through the “doors of death” of 1650 Valencia – for which our tax dollars are paying! Unbelievable and entirely unacceptable for any society that calls itself “civilized!!” As for the 25 foot zone – not to worry! When God is in the picture – as He is here – reflected in the precious lives of His little ones created in “His Image,” He always turns the situation around to His advantage – it will be interesting to observe!!

      1. How is it a benefit to spread mis-information about contraception and other women’s health issues? Contraceptives do not cause cervical or breast cancer, nor do they cause infertility. They allow women to choose when and if to have children.

        Please keep your religious beliefs to yourselves. They have no place in anyone’s else world.

      1. Not true. Abortion hurts women beyond what they could have ever imagined, and this “Anti-choice” is just a play on words. Choice is great…. abortion is not. It’s great to have a choice, I just hope more people choose NOT to have an abortion.

        1. Unwanted children hurt both the mother AND the children. Nobody is saying abortion is great, but clearly the alternative is far worse.

        2. Caleb, I’ve had an abortion- more than one. I didn’t hurt me at all.
          I would know, BTW- not you.
          But thanks for your concern. A word of advice? If you want to enter into the debate around issues of human sexuality, reproductive ethics- all that- you should consider how best to corral your own sperm. Forcusing on your body will give you some integrity. Doing anything other than that simply makes you predatory.

  10. It’s hilarious how many people completely misunderstand what the First Amendment means.

    I wonder if this law will actually be enforced, since most others don’t seem to be in the Mission.