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Sunday, May 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Woodward to sign health facility noise protections spurred by Planned Parenthood protests

UPDATED: Wed., March 4, 2020

Gabe Blomgren, left, an associate pastor at Covenant Church, raises his hand to the sky as he leads the crowd in singing a worship song during a protest rally and church service led by The Church at Planned Parenthood on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at Planned Parenthood's offices at 123 East Indiana in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gabe Blomgren, left, an associate pastor at Covenant Church, raises his hand to the sky as he leads the crowd in singing a worship song during a protest rally and church service led by The Church at Planned Parenthood on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at Planned Parenthood's offices at 123 East Indiana in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward plans to sign new protections for health care facilities into city law, while The Church at Planned Parenthood mulls potential litigation.

Woodward, who had met with representatives from both sides of the debate over the new law in the days leading up to Monday’s City Council vote, had not previously said whether she would sign it.

A city spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that Woodward will sign the ordinance when it lands on her desk.

The law, drafted by Spokane City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, passed 6-1 during Monday’s council meeting. It codifies in city law protections for health care facilities that already exist in state law. It prohibits activity that interferes with access to the health care facility or “with the safe and effective delivery of health services within the building.”

The Church at Planned Parenthood – which holds monthly events with amplified preaching, song and prayer in front of the Planned Parenthood on Indiana Avenue – feels its members were targeted by the ordinance.

Planned Parenthood has said the patients receiving health care services, which extend beyond abortion, are often disrupted by The Church at Planned Parenthood demonstrations and those held by other anti-abortion groups.

The Church at Planned Parenthood has retained the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group that backs conservative Christian causes. Its chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, was one of several attorneys who represented President Donald Trump during his recent impeachment trial.

For now, Pastor Ken Peters, who founded The Church at Planned Parenthood, said he is assessing the next steps in coordination with the ACLJ.

“They feel like the ordinance is definitely unconstitutional, it’s just a matter of if we think we can win in court,” Peters said.

Kinnear said she has fully expected a legal challenge and carefully crafted the legislation to ensure protestors’ constitutional rights to free speech remain protected.

“We were so very careful and inclusive and careful not to step on First Amendment rights,” Kinnear said.

The city’s law was crafted not to extend beyond the protections for health care facilities already listed in state law. But to the ACLJ, Peters said, both the city and state law are unconstitutional.

If it does pursue legal action, Peters said the ACLJ will represent The Church of Planned Parenthood at no cost.

“It’s not costing us a cent, and we’re going to get the best law firm in the United States,” Peters said, noting Sekulow’s representation of Trump during the impeachment trial.

Multiple phone messages left with an ACLJ representative were not returned on Wednesday.

Even though it lost the vote, Peters said The Church at Planned Parenthood’s supporters were successful in making their voices heard on Monday night.

“Even the guy that voted for us (Councilman Michael Cathcart) is pretty moderate, so we knew we were toast. We just wanted the city to feel us. We wanted them to know that we are here, we care, and we feel like what they are doing is steamrolling Christians,” Peters said.

In a statement following Monday’s vote, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho described it as a “major victory” for the clinic’s patients and anticipated “the implementation and enforcement of the new changes to the noise ordinance with respect to health care facilities.”

If Woodward had decided to veto the ordinance, it would have likely been in vain. Unless some members changed their position, the six in favor of the law would have been enough to override Woodward’s veto.

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