Planned Parenthood sues Fontana, citing Proposition 1 protection of abortion access

In his 30 years of leading Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, Jon Dunn said he never had to resort to legal action to get a new facility built — until now.

The Planned Parenthood affiliate has filed a formal complaint against Fontana, which is allegedly blocking abortion access, a right protected in the California Constitution after the passage of Proposition 1.

The suit, filed Monday in San Bernardino County Superior Court, requests that a construction moratorium be lifted to allow progress on a Planned Parenthood health center.

The complaint alleges that the moratorium violates local residents' constitutional rights to access reproductive health since voters codified abortion and contraception access with the approval of Proposition 1 in 2022.

Read more: Proposition 1 abortion rights ballot measure passes

The proposition's passage "didn't really change much from the standpoint of our delivering care," Dunn said in an interview with The Times. "What it did do, in our opinion, is establish a right to those services in a substantial way — and that is what we believe that the city of Fontana is violating by denying us the right to open a health center there."

In 2022, Planned Parenthood signed the lease for the future health center at 9699 Sierra Ave., the site of a former bank. Dunn, the organization's president and chief executive, said the property was well-suited for the health center as it already had been zoned for medical facilities and was near several other medical offices.

Over the course of the next year, Planned Parenthood officials worked to tailor project plans to the city's demands, receiving verbal approval from the city's director of planning July 12.

Shortly afterward, the City Council voted for a 45-day construction moratorium covering an area of downtown Fontana that included where the health center was to be built. The moratorium was later extended Sept. 5 by 10 months and 15 days but excluded entertainment-service projects. The complaint alleges that exemptions also have been made for properties within the moratorium area that City Council members have a financial stake in.

"It seems very clear to us that this was targeted to us," Dunn said.

Monique Carter, Fontana's communications and marketing manager, said officials had not had a chance to review the complaint and declined to comment.

Dunn said the need for a new reproductive health facility in Fontana was clear. The nearest one is in San Bernardino, and the second-closest is in Upland; both are more than 10 miles away. Planned Parenthood has also seen growing demand in San Bernardino County, with an 18.5% increase in patients between 2021 and 2023 at its three existing facilities, Dunn noted.

Dunn said that the issue goes beyond San Bernardino County and that the affiliate has reached out to the governor and state attorney general for support.

Read more: 'Still in flux.' Abortion's uncertain future a year after Roe was overturned

"We're trying to figure out what we can do at a state level," Dunn said, "to make it impossible for municipalities to simply object to reproductive healthcare providers opening facilities in their community."

Planned Parenthood is not the only healthcare provider to cite Proposition 1 in a legal complaint for abortion access. DuPont Clinic, an abortion provider based in Washington, D.C., wrote a letter to the city of Beverly Hills using similar wording for a clinic it was planning to open on Wilshire Boulevard.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.