2020 Pro Bono & Social Impact Report

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Preserving the Rights of Patients and Providers at Planned Parenthood

Supporting the Equal Rights Amendment

Patients who come to a health care center cannot focus on their health if they are distracted, anxious, or afraid. But that is the environment that a group of protesters created over a period of many months outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Spokane, Washington.

Last year, our Portland litigator John DiLorenzo joined forces with his wife, Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, and her organization VoteERA.org, in seeking to force the federal government to finally certify and incorporate the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution.

More than a quarter of Planned Parenthood patients are black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) and already face systemic inequities in their access to healthcare. Yet the aggressively loud protests—with drums, guitars, and amplification—together with harassment and obstruction of patients as they entered and exited, were causing patients in some cases to forgo treatment. Planned Parenthood staff also struggled to communicate with patients, document medical records correctly, or even answer the phone.

John, together with summer associate Lauren Harris, Michael Kellerman (now with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), and Chip English, filed an amicus brief on behalf of VoteERA.org and in support of three states litigating in D.C. District Court. VoteERA.org helped pass the ERA in Oregon in 2014.

These demonstrations were clearly unlawful, as Washington law prohibits willfully disrupting the normal functioning of a health care facility. The Seattle-based women’s advocacy group Legal Voice challenged these activities in court, and—with support from a large team of DWT lawyers and staff led by counsel Vicky Slade—secured a preliminary injunction. The judge enjoined the protestors from carrying out their activities until an hour after the Planned Parenthood clinic closes at night and only from a location farther away. Our team is now working on a motion to turn the preliminary injunction into a permanent one.