Anti-abortion group to pay Planned Parenthood nearly $1m over protest at clinic

<span>Photograph: Kathy Plonka/AP</span>
Photograph: Kathy Plonka/AP

An anti-abortion group has been ordered to pay almost $1m in fines to Planned Parenthood, over demonstrations outside a clinic in Spokane, Washington state.

According to its website, the group, Church at Planned Parenthood, was formed to stage “worship service at the gates of Hell”.

It also calls itself a “gathering of Christians for the worship of God and the corporate prayer for repentance for this nation, repentance for the apathetic church and repentance of our blood guiltiness in this abortion Holocaust”.

In September 2021, a judge permanently banned protesters from the group from loudly demonstrating outside the Spokane clinic.

The judge, Timothy Fennessy wrote: “Reasonable minds can only reach one conclusion, that Covenant Church [which founded the Church at Planned Parenthood group] intends to interfere with access to or safe and effective delivery of healthcare services” the Spokesman-Review reported.

Fennessy said the demonstrations created increased increased pain and other psychiatric symptoms for patients receiving care inside the clinic, KXLY, a Spokane radio station, reported.

Last month, a Spokane county judge ordered Church at Planned Parenthood to pay approximately $960,000 to Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, for violating state law by noisily demonstrating and interfering with patient care.

According to the Spokesman-Review newspaper, the group was required to pay $110,000 in civil damages and $850,000 in attorney fees.

In response, Paul Dillon, vice-president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said: “This is a critical victory for Planned Parenthood at a time of historical attacks on abortion access.”

Referring to a Seattle-based women and LGBTQ+ rights organization, he added: “We are so thankful for the work of Legal Voice as well as the overwhelming support of the community. We are proud to provide a safe, welcoming environment for our employees and our patients, so they can get the high quality health care they need.”

On Saturday, the group’s pastor, Ken Peters, condemned the ruling, writing on Facebook: “Planned Parenthood sues our little church for peaceful assembly and it costs Christians $850,000 for mostly corrupt lawyer’s fees. The only difference … we have to do 7pm instead of 6pm and go across the street. $850k over one hour and across the street. Wow.”

He added: “That’s a lot of money they stole from the Kingdom over one hour. We are restarting again 14 March at 7pm. See you there Pacific NW. It ain’t over.”

• This article was amended on 6 February 2023. An earlier version misplaced Spokane in Idaho, and the radio station KXLY in Seattle.