SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council passed an ordinance on Monday night that would limit noise disturbances at health care facilities.
This comes as frequents protests outside of Spokane's Planned Parenthood facility have posed problems over the past year.
The ordinance, which was passed with a 6 to 1 vote, provides for civil enforcement of a first violation and escalating criminal penalties for further violations, city documents say. District 2 Council Member Michael Cathcart was the only person to vote against the ordinance. Mayor Nadine Woodward still needs to sign the ordinance into law.
Council Members Lori Kinnear and Betsy Wilkerson co-sponsored the ordinance.
“When noise outside your health care facility disrupts, prevents, or interferes with your ability to receive health care, it’s completely unacceptable,” Wilkerson said
The ordinance places more emphasis on a Washington law in place that makes it illegal to “willfully or recklessly interfere with access to or from a health care facility” by, among other things, “making noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”
City leaders said the ordinance also provides for a private right of action, so health care facilities and providers can seek appropriate remedies for violations without the need for city involvement.
KREM reported in February that the ordinance would allow a patient to file a lawsuit against protesters if they believe their healthcare was compromised because of the protests.
Paul Dillon, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, called the passing of the ordinance a “major victory” for patients.
“We await Mayor Nadine Woodward’s signature and look forward to the implementation and enforcement of the new changes to the noise ordinance with respect to health care facilities,” Dillon wrote in a statement.
The Church at Planned Parenthood believes their message, not the noise, is what is promoting this response.
"We really feel like they just don't like us there, not that we're disrupting. So we feel unfairly treated," said Church at Planned Parenthood Pastor Ken Peters.
Peters said they don't plan on stopping their protests, but will obey officers orders if their service gets too loud.
"We just keep going on, and we're going to keep on singing and praying," he said.
The ordinance’s passing means the Spokane Police Department will need to follow the guidelines to determine when to issue warnings or noise violations.
Spokane Police Officer John O’Brien told KREM in February police have been working to keep the protests under control.
“There have been reports of bullhorns, musical instruments, horns honking of cars driving by. We have addressed those with people as they have happened. After the warning, there’s been compliance,” O’Brien said.
He added that officers are at the protests to have a neutral presence and ensure everyone’s safety.
The ordinance is content neutral. Any party disrupting, preventing or interfering with health care access will be subject to these clearer regulations, city leaders said on Tuesday.