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New Hampshire House Committee Stands By Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Law Already Found Unconstitutional

January 15, 2019

The Judiciary Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives has recommended against repealing a state law prohibiting protesting within 25 feet of an abortion clinic – even though the U.S. Supreme Court has already found a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

The New Hampshire legislative committee voted 14-4 on Tuesday, January 15 against recommending the bill, which will now go to the House floor, according to The Union Leader.

In June 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts statute prohibiting protesting and sidewalk counseling within 35 feet of the entrance to an abortion clinic. The vote in McCullen v. Coakley was 9-0, although the majority reasoning for striking down the law garnered only five votes. That opinion says, in part, about the abortion protesters (“Petitioners”) and the Massachusetts state attorney general (“Respondents”):

Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks — sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history. Respondents assert undeniably significant interests in maintaining public safety on those same streets and sidewalks, as well as in preserving access to adjacent healthcare facilities. But here the Commonwealth has pursued those interests by the extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers. It has done so without seriously addressing the problem through alternatives that leave the forum open for its time-honored purposes. The Commonwealth may not do that consistent with the First Amendment.

New Hampshire has abortion clinics in Manchester, Concord, Keene, and Greenland. None of the clinics in the state has used the law to try to enforce a protest-free perimeter around the entrance, which led a federal judge in Boston to decide in January 2017 that until the law is enforced, courts can’t decide whether it’s constitutional or not.



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