The First Amendment is soooo intimidating

I’m not trying to beat the New Hampshire gubernatorial race to death; it just seems that way. I’ll stop after this post, at least until the election’s over. File this one away until the next time a contract with New Hampshire’s leading abortion provider comes up at the State House.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund (PPNHAF) has gone after Mr. Sununu for his statement that he would back a few commonsense policies including repeal of the buffer zone law. Yes, THAT buffer zone law, enacted but never used because every abortion provider in the state knows that the law in its present form would be doomed in court.

PPNHAF statement here


I’m sorry I haven’t the time on this pre-election Sunday to fisk the full statement. I’ll settle for pointing out its references to the First Amendment rights of New Hampshire women and men.

The PP statement says “Chris Sununu said he’d…allow harassment of women seeking health care” and would “turn a blind eye to intimidation of women seeking health care by rejecting the bipartisan enactment of New Hampshire’s Buffer Zone law.”

Equating the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights with “harassment of women” is as egregious as equating “health care” with public funding of PP. I don’t know whether or not the irony is lost on PP’s target here.

If Mr. Sununu is “turning a blind eye to intimidation”, then so are the police departments in every New Hampshire community with an abortion facility. During the hearings on passage of the buffer zone in 2014, not one police department representative could be found to testify about problems with abortion-facility demonstrations that couldn’t be addressed via existing law. 

That was the fatal flaw in the Massachusetts buffer zone law thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley: Massachusetts failed to use existing laws to address demonstrators’ behavior before abrogating the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

The safety of women entering or working in an abortion facility, like the safety of women demonstrating outside, cannot be protected or enhanced by nullifying the First Amendment on public property adjacent to abortion facilities.  That’s what the buffer zone law seeks to do. The “bipartisan enactment” was bipartisan error.

No one has good reason to fear the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights. Rejecting New Hampshire’s yet-unenforced buffer zone law means rejecting that fear. Embracing the law means giving in to that fear.

Come to think of it, if opposition to buffer zones is tantamount to intimidating women, how come no PP facility in New Hampshire has posted a zone? PP worked for the law’s enactment, but has thus far declined to use it.

With less than a week to go before the election, PP’s statement is likely to get lost in the flood of overheated press releases coming from all sides. It’s worth remembering, though. PP is free to advocate for whatever it wants, including abrogation of constitutional rights. Governors and Executive Councilors are free to take that into consideration when the agency comes looking for its next contract.

PPNHAF has endorsed the Democratic candidates for Governor and Executive Council, all of whom we may therefore presume are committed to keeping the buffer zone law on the books.