Buffer zone repeal, 2019: hearing Jan. 9

Nine New Hampshire state representatives led by Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) are sponsoring HB 124, a bill to repeal the state’s so-called “buffer zone” law. That law is an anti-First-Amendment measure targeting peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. The public hearing on HB 124 is scheduled for Wednesday, January 9, in the House Judiciary Committee at 1:00 p.m. in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation to the full House regarding the bill on January 15.

Options for registering your opinion on the bill:

  • Attend the hearing. At that time you may deliver your testimony (speaking) to the committee, deliver written testimony with or without speaking, or simply sign the bill’s “blue sheet” (which will be available near the door of the committee room) to check off a box indicating support for the bill.
  • Email the committee. The Judiciary Committee page on the House web site does not currently provide a committee address, but if you email chief sponsor Rep. Wuelper at kurt.wuelper@leg.state.nh.us, he can forward your message to his colleagues. Subject line: YES on HB 124.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was passed in 2014, but has never been used. It authorizes abortion facility managers to determine where and when peaceful pro-life witnesses may occupy public property near abortion facilities. Maggie Hassan, then serving as Governor, signed the law despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had only days before ruled a similar Massachusetts law to be unconstitutional (McCullen v. Coakley).

For background, you can consult the dedicated page compiling this blog’s reports on the buffer zone issue.


Text of HB 124 as introduced:

AN ACT repealing the law relative to the buffer zones to reproductive health care facilities.

1. Statement of Findings and Purpose.
I. The general court hereby finds that:

(a) The exercise of a person’s right to free speech is a First Amendment activity, the protection of which is paramount.

(b) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) would infringe on the free speech rights of innocent people.

(c) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81), if implemented would be subject to immediate constitutional challenge.

(d) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) has served no public purpose.

II. Therefore, the general court hereby repeals RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 because if left as law, this statute will cause the state of New Hampshire to expend considerable sums defending a law which the United States Supreme Court may find unconstitutional and which has served no public purpose.

2 Repeal. RSA 132:37-132:40, relative to access to reproductive health care facilities, are repealed.

3 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

 

Abortion, the 1st Amendment, and Your Money: Fresh News, Same Old Story

The Trump Administration has announced a proposed rule that would prevent federal Title X family planning money from going to abortion providers. That’s “proposed.” It’s a long road from announcement to implementation. Pro-lifers are cheering as though it’s a done deal, and abortion providers are screaming as only people who’ve been hit in the wallet can scream.

Take a breath, folks. The proposed rule is good news. It would protect taxpayers from involvement in the abortion industry. But the rule is not in place yet, and may never be. Continue reading “Abortion, the 1st Amendment, and Your Money: Fresh News, Same Old Story”

UL: Manchester PP Seeks Variance

The April 10 New Hampshire Union Leader has a front-page article announcing that Planned Parenthood is seeking a zoning variance to remodel its Pennacook Street facility. Reporter Mark Hayward includes a brief reminder of how PP got the building in the first place 18 years ago: it sued its way in.

For more about that, see Leaven’s May 2014 post “How PPNNE got its Manchester building – and how a federal court helped.”

The UL article goes on to quote PP’s spokeswoman: “Our services are generally staying the same. It’s pretty much going to be business as usual.” Yup. Pretty much. Generally.

And then comes the last paragraph: “Planned Parenthood said it plans to seek a conditional use permit from the Planning Board to address a parking shortfall if the variance goes through.”

For anyone who has followed the buffer zone issue, and for anyone familiar with the parking situation near 24 Pennacook Street, that’s an interesting sentence. Will a “parking shortfall” provide PP with an excuse to post a buffer zone, in the name of safety? What would be the terms of a conditional use permit? Would it mean setting aside some of the public on-street parking area for PP use, thus effectively imposing a buffer against peaceful pro-life witnesses without using the buffer zone law?

Or maybe “it’s pretty much going to be business as usual” is a straightforward statement. We’ll see.

 

Free Speech Case Could Affect Pregnancy Care Centers

Arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20. At issue is a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to display information on how to obtain subsidized abortions.

Here’s a recent GrokTalk podcast in which I discuss the case with Steve MacDonald of Granite Grok.
Listen to “The First Amendment Doesn't Apply to You If You Are Pro-Life” on Spreaker.

 

In Which the Ventriloquists Feel Some Pushback

Update to a December post: In “Ventriloquists at Work”, I described cases in Connecticut and California in which government agencies are trying to tell pro-life pregnancy care centers what kind of signage they must post. The U.S. Supreme Court will take a look at the California case later this year.

Just yesterday, January 5, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to uphold a similar law targeting a pro-life clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s good news for all of us First Amendment fans.

From a press release from the Becket Fund, whose attorneys are representing the clinic in Baltimore:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A non-profit pregnancy center that helps low-income women in Baltimore prevailed over a discriminatory city ordinance today. In Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit protected the Center from being forced to violate its conscience by referring for abortions or posting government messages about abortion on its walls.

…In 2009, the City of Baltimore targeted the Center, which operates out of Catholic Church-owned property, demanding they display a sign stating that they “do not provide or make referrals for abortion or birth control services,” even though they already inform women in welcome papers and a lobby sign about the caring services they do provide for free and also that they do not offer abortions. Yet the City of Baltimore did not require abortion clinics to display the services they do not offer, such as adoption or prenatal care. The Fourth Circuit’s decision today criticized Baltimore for adopting “retributive speech restrictions” on pro-life speakers, calling the restrictions a “grave violation” of “our nation’s dearest principles.”

 Read the full statement from the Becket Fund. 

Note the date of the city ordinance: eight years ago. Eight years of litigation would force most nonprofit pregnancy care centers out of business. Maybe that’s one of the factors motivating ordinance supporters. Thumbs up to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and other public-interest law firms who take on such cases.