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The abortion war was brought to California’s First District Court of Appeal on Thursday, where lawyers for Planned Parenthood in San Mateo sought a writ of mandate to keep the names and addresses of its workers out of the hands of anti-abortion protestors. In a novel case, Justices J. Anthony Kline, Paul Haerle and Ignazio Ruvolo grappled with whether the privacy rights of abortion clinic workers can be trumped by the protesters’ right to obtain information for the purpose of discovery. Much of the debate in Planned Parenthood Golden Gate v. Superior Court A090162, revolved around whether disclosing such information would put Planned Parenthood employees in danger. “Essentially, what you are saying is, the privacy interest is tied to violence,” Kline asked Planned Parenthood attorney Beth Parker, a partner at San Francisco’s McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. “Can we assume that there is a conspiracy among all people that share a right-to-life position?” Parker responded affirmatively and tried to bolster her argument with an exhibit depicting the “Nuremburg Files” — an Internet site that posts personal information about abortion clinic workers and indicates which workers have been killed or maimed. Parker said releasing personal information about Planned Parenthood staffers would force them to live in constant fear. “Once this information is disclosed it can’t be pulled back in,” Parker said. She later added, “our concern here is the chilling effect on Planned Parenthood.” Attorneys for the protestors argued that Planned Parenthood wanted it both ways — using the privacy argument to sue protesters for violating a court-imposed 15-foot speech-free zone and, at the same time, using the same argument to shield itself from discovery in a cross-complaint. Catherine Short, the lawyer for the protesters and a self-proclaimed pro-life advocate, told the justices it would be bad precedent to assume that all abortion protestors are violent. “No matter what we do we’re wrong,” said Short, a solo practitioner in Atherton. “Where does it stop, this presumption that we’re the bad guys?” In 1998, abortion protester Rossi Foti sued Planned Parenthood for, among other things, alleged defamation, battery and civil rights violations. Planned Parenthood’s cross-complaint claimed that the protestors’ confrontational tactics interfered with its patients’ constitutional right to privacy. Attorneys for Foti and other protesters named in the cross-complaint responded by moving to compel Planned Parenthood to disclose the names, addresses and telephone numbers of every staff member and volunteer who had seen or written a report about their protest activities at the San Mateo clinic. A discovery referee ordered Planned Parenthood to disclose the names of the witnesses and San Mateo Superior Court Judge Phrasel Shelton agreed that the names could be released under a confidentiality agreement. Parker said since the attorneys for the protesters are anti-abortion advocates themselves and have been known to picket in front of clinic workers’ homes, the confidentiality agreement would do little to protect clinic workers. Short said it was ludicrous to think that the protesters — three senior citizens — would violate a court order and put the information in the hands of people who would use it to do violence. Kline asked Short why she needed addresses and phone numbers. The attorney responded that she needed to be able to interview the other side’s witnesses. Ruvolo then asked Short why she thought Planned Parenthood staffers and volunteers would talk to her in the first place. “Given the fact that the people are so fearful, what’s the likelihood they’ll want to meet with you?” Ruvolo asked.

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