Battle for the ‘Bubble Ordinance’

Anti-Abortion Attorney May Sue City After Unsuccessful Negotiations

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne said he’s fully prepared to defend the city’s so-called bubble-ordinance despite contentions by a prominent anti-abortion attorney in Ojai who insists the law runs afoul of a recent Supreme Court ruling that concluded Massachusetts’s buffer bill is unconstitutional. Calonne’s announcement came one day after meeting with members of the City Council and a few hours after talking with attorney Katie Short, legal director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation.

Calonne said the city’s ordinance requires only an eight-foot buffer between anti-abortion activists and the driveway entrance to the Planned Parenthood clinic on Garden Street as opposed to the 35-foot buffer required by the Massachusetts law. Short noted the Supreme Court’s interest in allowing sidewalk counselors — as opposed to anti-abortion protestors — to get close enough to people entering the clinic so they can hand out leaflets describing alternatives and engage in conversation. The city’s ordinance, she contended, still makes such interaction all but impossible.

Calonne pointed to a 9th Circuit Court ruling from 1997 upholding the city’s ordinance in which the justices specifically concluded that it allowed conversation to take place. Short said she has not yet made up her mind whether to file a lawsuit. She said she had hoped to persuade the council to either drop the existing ordinance or agree not to enforce it.

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