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As originally published on Patch on Monday, December 4, 2023.

Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties announced Monday it filed a lawsuit against the city of Fontana alleging local officials are illegally blocking the nonprofit's efforts to construct a facility in the Inland Empire city.

Lawyers for PPOSBC noted in the formal complaint filed Monday afternoon in San Bernardino County Superior Court that Fontana’s Sept. 5 “Urgency Ordinance" — which bans construction in part of the city, including the proposed Planned Parenthood site — violates residents’ rights to abortion, contraception and reproductive health per state law.

Passing with more than two-thirds of the vote in Nov. 2022, California's Proposition 1 amended the state's Constitution to explicitly grant the right to abortion and contraceptives.

The PPOSBC lawsuit is one of the first legal challenges against a local government body since Prop 1 became law.

PPOSBC argues the Fontana community is medically underserved, with many residents either uninsured or on Medi-Cal, and San Bernardino County residents have higher average rates of sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, than the rest of the state or the nation.

"All of this indicates a growing need for quality, comprehensive, affordable reproductive healthcare in Fontana," according to PPOSBC.

In July 2022, PPOSBC began filing the required paperwork with the city of Fontana for building a long-planned health center at the northeast corner of Sierra and San Bernardino avenues, according to the nonprofit.

"For 12 months afterward, 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 then a verbal approval from the city’s engineering department regarding a driveway issue that had been resolved," according to PPOSBC.

But just a week later, on July 25, PPOSBC received notice that there was suddenly a moratorium on construction where the health center was planned, according to the organization.

Then on Sept. 5, Fontana City Council with a 4-1 vote extended the construction ban for an additional 10 months and 15 days. City Councilmember Jesse Sandoval was the sole dissenter.

Per the PPOSBC lawsuit, the moratorium on construction “exempts properties and geographic areas where certain Respondents [members of the City Council] have personal or financial interests, drawing bizarre and indefensible lines around what falls in or out of the Ordinance’s moratorium.”

PPOSBC President and CEO Jon Dunn issued the following statement after the organization officially filed its formal complaint. “We did not want to be among the first organizations to file a lawsuit alleging violation of Californians’ constitutional rights under Proposition 1. However, we have chosen to defend the rights of our community members against the city of Fontana, due to their deliberate actions to actively deny their community access to healthcare services.

"Instead of working in their citizens’ interests, they wasted taxpayer resources on issuing an unconstitutional, procedurally improper moratorium on new construction that exclusively blocks PPOSBC’s health center, despite a clear need in their community for vital health services including cancer screening, STI testing and treatment, and contraception," Dunn said.

Dunn characterized Fontana City Council’s actions as "a clear infringement of their citizens’ constitutional rights."

"These efforts to block construction of a Planned Parenthood health center are not motivated by concern for the health of their citizens, but instead by political pressure from a small, vocal, out-of-touch special interest group that has spread misinformation and pressured City Council members into making policy based on ideology, not facts," Dunn said.

Last summer, hundreds marched in Fontana in protest of the PPOSBC project. Bethel Christian Fellowship and St. Joseph Catholic Church were among the organizations that joined the march. Protesters carried signs reading, “Let God Plan Parenthood” and “Pray to End Abortion.”

According to PPOSBC, a Fontana Planned Parenthood would create at least 24 local jobs.



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