Councilwoman drafts law to quiet protests at facilities like Planned Parenthood

SPOKANE, Wash. — A local city councilwoman has drafted a law that looks to drown out the noise that comes with protests outside facilities like Planned Parenthood.

Lori Kinnear’s proposed ordinance would make it illegal for someone to intentionally interfere with access to a health care facility, or its normal day-to-day operations.

Kinnear told 4 News Now even though she was inspired to draft the law after attending a protest outside Planned Parenthood, her ordinance does not target any building in particular — she said it’s meant to cut down on noise that can be disruptive for patients and their providers.

“Witnessing 200 plus people outside of a facility — it’s disheartening but it’s also intimidating,” Kinnear said of demonstrations outside the reproductive clinic. “Keep in mind that [the ordinance] does not only affect Planned Parenthood. It’s covering every healthcare facility.”

The Church at Planned Parenthood, a pro-life group, gathers outside the clinic every month for “a worship service at the gates of Hell” before it closes for the day. Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told 4 News Now the group typically starts its demonstrations at 5 p.m., but can be at the clinic as early as 4 p.m. for soundcheck. Dillon said some Planned Parenthood staff members and patients are at the clinic as late as 7 p.m. Dillon said The Church has also held services in the morning and afternoon.

Valencia Peters told 4 News Now the group feels attacked by Kinnear’s proposal.

“We’re not threatening or having vicious motives towards any ladies. We’re just out there peacefully praying for abortion to end,” said Peters. “The protesters that are protesting us have made so much noise in the past. It is a little confusing when we’re the ones getting targeted for being loud.”

Much like the law does not protect a certain building, Kinnear told 4 News Now the ordinance does not zero in on any one group.

“It targets anyone who’s making a disturbance loud enough to be heard inside the building,” she said. “So, if it’s counter-protesters, Church at Planned Parenthood — it doesn’t matter.”

Kinnear said the law would be added on to the city’s existing ordinance and would mimic the state’s noise law, only it would be tailored to Spokane and offer anyone affected by the noise an outlet to pursue private legal action against a violator. According to the proposal, the “aggrieved person may be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and such other legal and equitable relief as appropriate to remedy the violation including, without limitation, the payment of compensatory damages and injunctive relief.”

The ordinance would not prohibit legal picketing.

“You can be quietly protesting. That’s not the issue,” Kinnear said. “The issue is when individuals are intent on disrupting the activity inside a facility.”

Should the law be adopted, a first-time violation would be considered a class one civil infraction, while a second violation within a calendar year would be considered a gross misdemeanor and could translate to a $500 fine and 24 hours in jail. The maximum punishment for convictions past that would translate to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.

Peters said the group is still working through what its response will look like, should the city council adopt the ordinance.

“Our purpose is just to peacefully be a presence for the unborn for those who are being killed at the abortion mill at Planned Parenthood,” she said. “I know we can’t stop taking a stand for them.”

“Reproductive health clinics, including the Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane have witnessed a dramatic increase in extremely disruptive activity since 2017.  This activity is harmful not only to patients who are seeking critical care and staff who are only trying to do their jobs but it also disturbs the peace and threatens public health and safety,” said Dillon in a statement to 4 News Now. “Reproductive health care is health care and we are no different. It is the right thing to do to protect the health and safety those seeking to access health care in Spokane.”

The city council is set to vote on the ordinance at its meeting March 2nd. Read it in full here.