New Calif. Law Addresses Antiabortion-Rights Demonstrations Near Schools

August 5, 2011 — In response to a controversy over antiabortion-rights demonstrations at Los Angeles-area schools, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Wednesday signed into law a bill (AB 123) that toughens penalties for creating disturbances near school campuses, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, makes it a misdemeanor to cause a disturbance on or next to school campuses where the action could threaten the physical safety of students.

Assembly member Tony Mendoza (D) authored the measure in response to a March 2003 incident in which graphic images of an aborted fetus were mounted on a vehicle and driven past a Rancho Palos Verdes middle school. "Because of the disturbing nature of the photographs, some students at the scene became angry, some began to cry and others stared while standing in the street, creating a traffic safety hazard," Mendoza said (McGreevy, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/3).

The law could punish anyone who disturbs children near preschools, elementary or middle schools with up to six months in jail and a fine of $500. It also grants school administrators and law enforcement officials more ways to protect students (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/4).

Robert Muise -- an attorney for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, the group that sponsored the 2003 demonstration -- said the law is "meaningless." He added that if the measure was passed "in a way to prevent the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform from engaging in peaceful demonstrations on public streets, [then] they are not going to win that fight" ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/3).