May 28, 2024


El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

Planned Parenthood Sues Fontana: Claims City’s Moratorium Unconstitutionally Blocks New Health Clinic, Stages Silent Protest

4 min read

The mobile billboard circling Fontana City Hall during the silent protest reads “2,000 patients denied healthcare this month due to city council. Let Planned Parenthood in Fontana.”

Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, Inc. (PPOSBC) has filed a lawsuit against the City of Fontana and its City Council, accusing them of unlawfully obstructing the establishment of a new reproductive health clinic. The lawsuit challenges an “urgency ordinance” adopted on September 5, 2023, which imposes a moratorium on permits for “non-entertainment service-based uses” in specific downtown areas, effectively blocking the clinic’s opening.

Ordinance Under Fire

PPOSBC contends that this ordinance is a veiled attempt to prevent the clinic from providing abortion services, a constitutionally protected right. The organization argues that the ordinance is unconstitutional, procedurally flawed, and driven by anti-abortion sentiment.

“The City Council’s actions are a blatant attempt to use political means to restrict access to essential healthcare services,” said Sadaf Rahmani, Public Affairs Director for PPOSBC. “Our lawsuit is about protecting our patients’ rights and ensuring they receive the care they need.”

Background of the Dispute

After securing a lease for a location in downtown Fontana in May 2022, PPOSBC spent over a year obtaining necessary permits. However, the process was stalled by continuous demands from the City Planning Department for aesthetic adjustments to the clinic’s architectural plans. Despite these delays, PPOSBC received verbal approval on July 12, 2023, only to face increased opposition from anti-abortion activists and subsequent city council actions.

Public protests and City Council meetings were dominated by anti-abortion rhetoric, culminating in the adoption of the urgency ordinance on July 25, 2023. The moratorium was later extended for ten months and 15 days on September 5, 2023, expiring on July 20, 2024, with a City Council meeting set for July 23, 2024, to discuss further action.

Claims of Targeted Ordinance

PPOSBC asserts that the ordinance specifically targets their clinic, as no other businesses have been affected. The organization points out that the ordinance was adopted without adequate notice or evidence of an emergency, and it allegedly exempts properties where City Council members have personal or financial interests, suggesting conflicts of interest and arbitrary zoning practices.

“The City’s manipulation of the ordinance map to exclude certain properties shows a clear intent to block our clinic while protecting their own interests,” Rahmani stated.

Legal Arguments

The lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates several constitutional rights, including:

Right to Access Reproductive Healthcare: The California Constitution guarantees the right to access abortion and contraceptive services.

Equal Protection and Due Process: The ordinance is seen as a discriminatory act against PPOSBC, violating both state and federal constitutional protections.

Property Rights: The moratorium is argued to be an unconstitutional taking of private property without compensation, violating both the California Constitution and the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Seeking Immediate Relief

PPOSBC is requesting an immediate stay of the ordinance, a writ of mandate to repeal it, and compensation for the illegal takings and legal costs. They argue that the moratorium is causing irreparable harm to their patients, who are being denied essential healthcare services.

Impact on the Community

PPOSBC highlights the significant need for their services in Fontana. The city has a high percentage of residents living below the poverty line【source†(U.S. Census Bureau)】. Additionally, San Bernardino County, where Fontana is located, has higher rates of sexually transmitted infections than the state average【source†(CDC)】.

“A PPOSBC health center in Fontana could provide over 2,000 medical visits per month, offering services like cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing, and primary care,” Rahmani explained. “Our clinic would fill a critical gap in accessible healthcare for this community.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Fontana residents living below the federal poverty level is projected to increase by about 50% over the next decade, indicating that a growing portion of the city’s population is in dire need of affordable or no-cost healthcare【source†(U.S. Census Bureau)】. Furthermore, 30.5% of Fontana citizens are uninsured or on Medi-Cal, compared to the rest of California’s 29.5%【source†(U.S. Census Bureau)】. Meanwhile, San Bernardino County residents have higher average rates of STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, than the rest of the state or the nation【source†(CDC)】

A PPOSBC health center would provide Fontana residents with more than 36,000 medical visits each year, with appointments seven days a week, and create at least 24 local jobs.

Silent Protest and Community Support

In response to the city’s actions, PPOSBC organized a silent protest at the Fontana City Council meeting on May 14, 2024. Volunteers wore pink “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” shirts and held posters highlighting the importance of the clinic. A mobile billboard also circled Fontana City Hall, drawing attention to the city’s unconstitutional actions.

“We are standing up for our community members’ rights,” said Rahmani. “This protest is a call to action against extremist efforts to block essential healthcare services.”

Supporters are encouraged to visit to learn more about the lawsuit and how to take action against the city’s restrictions. The case is scheduled for a hearing on June 4, 2024, which could set a precedent for similar disputes across the country.


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