Judge: Church at Planned Parenthood can no longer loudly demonstrate outside Spokane clinic

Planned Parenthood Protests
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SPOKANE, Wash. — The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) can no longer loudly demonstrate outside of the Spokane Planned Parenthood clinic. 

TCAPP is led by members of the Covenant Church, including former Spokane Valley representative Matt Shea. The group regularly holds loud gatherings outside of the clinic to protest abortion. 

But Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho has long maintained that they interrupt patient care. On Wednesday, a judge sided with Planned Parenthood. 

Planned Parenthood filed an injunction in 2020 in an effort to stop TCAPP’s interference. They said the First Amendment protects TCAPP’s rights to protest, but not to interfere with patient services. 

READ: Planned Parenthood files legal injunction against TCAPP

RELATED: SPD: Church leaders may have violated court order outside Planned Parenthood

According to the court records, TCAPP would hold their worship services on the sidewalk or a strip of grass adjacent to the south wall of the clinic. 

“While Planned Parenthood respects the right to protest and peaceful assembly, the First Amendment does not protect conduct that is intended to interfere with patients’ care,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement Thursday. “Then negative health effects of excessive noise on patients in health care settings are well-documented. These hazards include an increased risk of hypertension, increased pain, and a variety of psychiatric symptoms – all of which are likely to be even more pronounced for patients seeking care from a reproductive health clinic.” 

Planned Parenthood said the yelling and excessive noise made by TCAPP affected patients in the building and regularly violated Municipal Code ordinances. 

In September 2020, a judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood by granting a preliminary injunction against TCAPP. That order stated TCAPP could hold their services across the street from the clinic, but Planned Parenthood said they routinely violated the court order. 

Planned Parenthood filed a motion of summary judgment in July with evidence of those violations. 

On Wednesday, Judge Timothy Fennessy ordered that Covenant Church and its members could no longer gather on the sidewalk or strip of grass near the clinic or anywhere within 35 feet of the clinic. They are also barred from gathering or making noise between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

If the church violates the judge’s orders, they could face penalties.

“Our commitment today, and always, is to the health and safety of our patients and staff. This is a critical victory for Planned Parenthood at a time of historical attacks on abortion access and we are so thankful for the overwhelming support of the community that stands with Planned Parenthood,” the organization said. “We are proud to provide a safe, welcoming environment for our employees and our patients, so they can get the high quality health care they need, No one should ever face the threat of harassment and intimidation because they are seeking or providing health care. Our doors are open today, and they will stay open to provide the compassionate care that our patients need and deserve in Spokane and across the region.”

READ: Church at Planned Parenthood to meet outside facility despite judge’s order