Walnut Creek

Battle Over Free Speech and Abortion Rights Brewing in the East Bay

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A battle over free speech and abortion rights is brewing in the East Bay.

The city of Walnut Creek is considering a buffer zone law that will force anti-abortion protestors to stand further away from a Planned Parenthood clinic after reports of aggressive protesters at clinics nationwide. But local Demonstrators say they’re anything but aggressive and simply want to offer pregnant women alternatives to an abortion.

Stacey Cavanagh deals with fetuses 24/7. At work – she’s an ultrasound tech.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years and I’ve seen so much stuff,” she said.

And when she’s home, she sees abortion rights opponents picketing outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Walnut Creek.

“My dogs bark of course at them but I don’t have a problem with them being there,” said Cavanah. “I see babies at every stage and I hear lots of very sad stories, I’m pro-choice and I’ve always been that way.”

On Monday, members of the group 40 Days for Life, quietly held signs opposing abortion steps away from the clinic’s parking lot.

“40 days for life tries to stay off the sidewalk as much as possible, I feel like we have not intimidated anyone,” said a member.

But that wasn’t always the case. A year ago, the abortion rights opponents brought four armed guards with them to demonstrate there. Two of those private security guards were charged for pepper-spraying abortion rights supporters. Mayor Kevin Wilk wants to avoid a repeat of that, especially during a time when abortion rights are threatened in states like Texas and Mississippi. That’s why he’s called on city staff to come up with options on how to set up a buffer zone that will keep demonstrators further away from the clinic.

“I think that it is important to review the options of a buffer zone, how much that buffer zone is, whether its twenty feet, or 30 feet or whatever it is the law allows,” he said.

The Walnut Creek City Council will consider a buffer zone ordinance at their meeting Friday. 

“We hope that they will decide not to do such a thing we feel like we are in our rights, where we are, we’re keeping our boundary away from our driveway,” said a member of 40 Days for Life.

The Mayor says protecting women’s reproductive rights is one of his personal priorities.

If the buffer zone law passes, it will be up to the Walnut Creek Police Department to enforce it.

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