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As originally published on The Sun on December 5, 2023.

Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties has filed suit against the city of Fontana after officials there enacted a moratorium barring the construction of a new clinic, the nonprofit announced this week.

The suit filed in San Bernardino Superior Court alleges the city violated its citizens’ constitutional rights by “illegally blocking the construction of a Planned Parenthood health center,” the nonprofit said in a news release.

The city’s moratorium specifically affects the clinic, according to Ramona Thomas, general counsel and vice president of risk and compliance at Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, the city has allowed other construction projects, such as a Lens Crafters store, to continue with the permitting process, she said.

“They claimed that the ordinance was broader reaching than that, but upon the documents that they provided us during the responses to public records requests that we initiated, there’s evidence … that says that we are in fact the only party that is prohibited from constructing during this moratorium,” Thomas added.

“There’s no other business affected by the moratorium the way Planned Parenthood is,” said Jon Dunn, president of the local Planned Parenthood chapter. “We’re the only business in the final stages of permitting. We were about to receive building permits when they invoked … this moratorium to stop the approval of all building permits.”

The city’s moratorium, if it stands, sets a precedent that would allow local governments to limit access to reproductive health care in violation of Prop. 1, according to Planned Parenthood. The proposition, a 2022 voter-backed amendment to the state constitutionenshrines access to abortion and contraception throughout California.

“We felt like we needed to stand up and protect our patients’ access to care and stop the city from being able to use its own political motivation to deny patients the services they need,” Thomas said.

When reached Tuesday for comment, city spokesperson Monique Carter said officials there had yet to review the lawsuit and therefore would not make a statement.

In May 2022, Planned Parenthood signed a lease for land on the northeast corner of Sierra and San Bernardino avenues to build a clinic, Dunn said.

Fontana-area patients must drive to San Bernardino for medical care, Dunn said. With an increased patient volume in San Bernardino — following the Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe v. Wadeabortion restrictions in neighboring states are driving more patients to California — it made sense to open a clinic in the Fontana area to increase accessibility, Dunn said.

“We thought and planned for additional volume … and thought the Fontana site would be a good location for potential overflow of patients that need to get in and might be displaced by folks coming from out of state,” he added.

The organization says it worked with the city for 12 months on the design and obtaining a construction permit, and on July 12 received verbal approval from the city’s director of planning to move the project forward. Dunn said the final hearing on the application was tentatively set for the end of August.

On July 25, however, Planned Parenthood said it received notice the City Council had placed a moratorium on construction at the site where the health center was planned. On Sept. 5, the council extended the moratorium for an additional 10 months and 15 days.

Thomas said the lawsuit against the city is scheduled for February 2024 hearing.



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