Once in force – meaning as soon as Governor Hassan signs it – New Hampshire’s buffer zone law will put “up to 25 feet” between abortion facilities and people who wish to give silent, prayerful witness against the carnage.
The zone will only apply during business hours, according to the soon-to-be law. So what are the business hours?
Are they hours posted on the door of an abortion facility? If so, prolifers won’t be able to read them, since they can’t approach the facility unless they’re heading inside as an employer, client, contractor, or public employee such as a police officer.
Are they hours posted online? What if a pro-life witness comes in good faith to stand within 25 feet of the facility, only to discover that the hours posted online have changed? Written warning, I suppose – and any subsequent infringement, whether it’s five minutes or five years away, would mean a citation and a minimum $100 fine.
What if a facility stays open late or opens earlier than usual for some reason – a patient needing extra time, for instance? How will anyone know that there’s “business” being conducted?
We already know that the size of a particular zone will be up to the individual abortion facility. Sounds like hours of zone enforcement will be up each facility, too, in the absence of clear posting of hours on the outside of a facility, visible from the edge of the “buffer.”
Of course, every business controls its own hours. That’s as it should be. The trouble with applying that to a buffer zone law: now, selected businesses will be able to control access to public property at all hours, simply by announcing that “business” is going on, even retroactively. A pro-life witness present in good faith outside a facility, thinking she’s legal because it’s after hours, could find herself cited. All it would take is an abortion facility employee calling the police to claim that “business” was being conducted at the time the witness was present.
“So stay 25 feet away 24/7,” someone might say.
That’s what’s known as a chilling effect.