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As originally published on the Daily Bulletin on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.

Access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception, is a human right. Many Americans have lost this right since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. However, it has been guaranteed to everyone in California under our state’s constitution since Californians voted overwhelmingly to pass Proposition 1 (Prop 1) in the November 2022 midterm elections. Our state is one of the first in the nation to codify reproductive health access as a guaranteed constitutional right.

Unfortunately, the city of Fontana has chosen to take actions this year that violate its citizens’ constitutional right to reproductive healthcare access. This is why Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties (PPOSBC) is defending our community by bringing one of the first constitutional cases against a local government entity in California since the passage of Prop 1.

PPOSBC began the process of filing necessary paperwork with the city of Fontana for building a long-planned health center in July 2022. This medical facility was greatly anticipated by many in the community, and would have been able to provide Fontana residents with more than 36,000 medical visits each year, with appointments 7 days a week, creating at least 24 local jobs for healthcare providers, medical assistants and other roles. For 12 months, PPOSBC adhered to all requirements to obtain a construction permit. On July 12, 2023, PPOSBC received verbal approval from Fontana’s Director of Planning and the city’s engineering department.

But then, on July 25, 2023, we received notice that there was suddenly a moratorium on building where our health center was planned. On September 5, 2023, the city council held another meeting extending the moratorium for an additional 10 months and 15 days. It’s likely no coincidence that this was declared after extensive protests by a very small, vocal ideological interest group that objects to Planned Parenthood. It’s also likely no coincidence that, based on information provided by the city, the ban on new construction only impacted PPOSBC’s planned health center while sparing other businesses, including those with ties to City Council members.

This discriminatory, procedurally improper moratorium violates citizens’ constitutional rights, and would set an alarming precedent if it were allowed to stand. It would pave the way for City Councils and other local government bodies to block healthcare facilities that serve millions of residents based on ideology, not the needs of the community.

It also shows that the city of Fontana clearly cares more about capitulating to special interests than the health of its citizens, who are in dire need of affordable healthcare. The percentage of Fontana residents living below the federal poverty level is projected to increase by about 50% over the next decade. A higher percentage of Fontana residents (30.5%) are uninsured or on Medi-Cal, compared to the rest of California (29.5%). San Bernardino County residents have considerably higher average rates of STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, than the rest of the state or the nation.

Meanwhile, last year PPOSBC provided $3 million in health care services to patients who were unable to pay, and had over 260,000 medical visits. In addition to abortion care, which is a small but important part of PPOSBC’s work, our services include cancer screening, birth control including IUDs and vasectomies, breast exams, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy testing, sexual health education and counseling. PPOSBC’s comprehensive primary care arm, Melody Health, also provides online mental health counseling.

Fontana residents need and deserve more options for quality, affordable healthcare. This is why we are taking legal action against the city of Fontana, for the sake of patients everywhere in California. On December 4, we filed the lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court.

We look forward to seeing justice served in this case, and believe that the courts will ultimately side with patients over powerful special interests.

Jon Dunn is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties. He is a resident of Orange. 



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