Does California Bill Limiting Vaccine Protests Violate First Amendment?
A proposed bill that would place limitations on vaccine site protests is drawing criticism from one prominent California civil rights attorney.
State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, introduced SB 742, which would place limitations on vaccine site protests. The law is modeled after a 2012 state law that limits protests at funerals.
Under the proposed law, protesters at locations where vaccines are administered — which can include hospitals or doctor’s offices — would have to stay at least 300 feet away, unless they’re on private property. The penalty could be a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in county jail.
Harmeet Dhillon, attorney and CEO of Center for American Liberties, says the bill goes too far.
“It prohibits ‘picketing targeted at a vaccination site,’ and that could be interpreted under First Amendment law as a viewpoint based discrimination.” — Civil rights attorney Harmeet Dhillon
“Protesting those sites is a First Amendment-protected activity,” Dhillon said. “It prohibits ‘picketing targeted at a vaccination site,’ and that could be interpreted under First Amendment law as a viewpoint based discrimination.”
Pan’s office did not respond to a request for comment by GV Wire℠. A Pan-affiliated group, ProtectUs, also did not respond.
Pan, a licensed pediatrician, is known for his vaccine advocacy and public backlash against his policies.
He previously authored bills removing personal belief exemptions (SB 277 of 2015) and and a bill tightening requirements on how doctors can issue medical exemptions (SB 276 of 2019) for vaccines so children can attend school.
Both bills were met with opposition from a variety of homeschool and medical freedom groups.
Pan recently penned a commentary in the Washington Post, blasting anti-vaccine advocates.
“This campaign to deny potentially lifesaving vaccines to those seeking them, and to poison public opinion against vaccinations, could result in countless American deaths. That is akin to domestic terrorism,” Pan wrote.
Pan has also criticized Facebook and other social media groups for allowing vaccine skeptics to post their views.