NH “buffer zone” team looks thin this morning

Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)
Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)

The team that gave New Hampshire a buffer zone law took a hit at the polls Tuesday. Maybe squelching peaceful prayer vigils isn’t a winning issue.

Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election indicate that at least twenty-five House members who voted for New Hampshire’s unenforced “buffer zone” law have lost their seats. The bill passed 162-100 on a day when the 400-seat House barely mustered a quorum to do business.


In the 24-member Senate, ten senators who supported the law were re-elected – maybe 11, pending the outcome in district 7.

There’s a repeal bill in the works, ready to be introduced as soon as the legislature convenes for 2015.

Fortunately for the abortion-facility lobbyists who worked so hard to pass the law, Governor Hassan was re-elected. She’ll likely veto a straight repeal, as opposed to repeal-and-replace. It would take a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override, and we’re not there yet. The shift in House and Senate membership is good news, but not decisive.

Send her a repeal bill anyway. Let the Governor decide just how much she wants to invest in nullifying the First Amendment outside abortion facilities. How long does she want to keep the taxpayers on the hook for defending this law, so similar to the one the Supreme Court threw out in McCullen v. Coakley? How much time and political capital does she want to invest in protecting the law, pushing other state business to a lower priority?

Make her go on record, over and over again.

The lead sponsor of the buffer zone law was just re-elected. She might say once again, as she did last year with a straight face, that this law is about “safety and balance” outside abortion facilities. Neither she nor the Governor ever managed to explain why our existing laws against trespassing, disorderly conduct, harassment and assault weren’t being used.

Make them keep trying. The buffer zone can be repealed, or it can be thrown out in court. Repeal is cheaper in every sense. The Reddy v. Foster case is still pending, with a restraining order currently preventing enforcement of the law. If I were governor, and if I were contemplating a U.S. Senate run in 2016, I’d be careful about inviting a judicial smackdown of a law I made a big deal about signing.