Category Archives: Freedom of speech

includes posts on buffer zones and other attempts to restrict peaceful prolife speech

House refuses to repeal buffer zone law

The New Hampshire House has given thumbs-down to repealing the state’s unenforced buffer zone law, rejecting HB 589 with a 191-165 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) vote.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt to repeal 2014’s buffer zone law, which gives abortion providers the ability to prohibit exercise of First Amendment rights on public property near their facilities. Last year’s repeal attempt was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s law is similar to the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Before the vote on HB 589, Reps. Jeanine Notter, Kurt Wuelper, and Dan Hynes spoke in favor of the repeal bill. I’m proud that two of them represent my town.


Here is the link to the roll call on HB 589. Keep in mind that the motion was ITL, so a “yea” vote favored killing the repeal effort. The “nays” came from reps who presumably don’t want to deny First Amendment rights to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Among the 165 representatives who opposed killing the repeal bill were four non-Republicans. I tip my cap to Democrats Amanda Bouldin, Raymond Gagnon, and Jean Jeudy for being willing to take a position at variance with that of their party’s leaders. Libertarian Caleb Dyer cast a pro-First-Amendment vote, too.

Most of the 191 votes to kill the repeal effort came from Democrats, but 34 Republicans lined up behind them.

Pro-lifers to witness at Concord “Women’s March” (and you’re invited)

From this morning’s Leaven for the Loaf email newsletter:

An invitation to witness

The national “Women’s March” in Washington coming up Saturday the 21st has no place for pro-life women, thus revealing itself to be an abortion advocacy event. Pro-lifers are going to show up anyway. A similar “march” will be happening in Concord on State House Plaza on the same day, and intrepid New Hampshire pro-lifers will be there, too. You’re invited to join members of New Hampshire Right to Life as they rally for life

Read the event’s Facebook page for more information, or contact Beth at 40daysforlifemanchester@gmail.com (but note that this is not a 40DFL-related event). 

I’m not giving away any secrets when I say that the pro-abortion rally in Concord will be big. (The Facebook signups for that event make that clear.) The pro-lifers nearby, in an act of faith, hope and love, simply want to give witness to the right to life. Organizers have a permit in hand from the city, limited to the sidewalk along Main Street outside State House plaza. 

Here’s a screenshot of the event’s flyer.


I’m sorry that I won’t be there myself – but I’ll look forward to sharing with readers the photos and reports from the pro-lifers who brave the sidewalk that day.


Note that I’m open to a guest post from anyone participating in an authentically pro-life response to one of the “Women’s Marches.”

Keep in mind the OK-to-choose-death-for-others mission of the “Women’s Marches,” as expressed by organizers of the main march in Washington when they rescinded an invitation to New Wave Feminists.

No repeal of buffer zone in 2016

As yet unbuffered: peaceful witness outside a Manchester NH abortion facility.
As yet unbuffered: peaceful witness outside a Manchester NH abortion facility. Ellen Kolb photo.

In a repeat of a 2015 vote, the New Hampshire Senate on May 5 refused to endorse repeal of a law permitting abortion facilities to establish buffer zones within which First Amendment activities are barred.

The ought-to-pass motion on the repeal bill, HB 1570, failed on a 12-12 vote. The bill was then tabled.

No votes shifted from 2015’s repeal effort. Continue reading No repeal of buffer zone in 2016

Update: buffer zone case dismissal being appealed

On April 18, attorneys for the plaintiffs in Reddy v. Foster filed notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, asking that the recent dismissal of the case by a lower court be set aside. Briefs and arguments for the appeal are still months away.


In Reddy, seven pro-life plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s buffer zone law, which authorizes abortion providers to prohibit peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities. Federal Court Judge Joseph Laplante recently dismissed the case, ruling that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue since no abortion provider had yet posted a zone.

Even with the dismissal of the lawsuit, peaceful pro-life witness outside New Hampshire abortion facilities without posted buffer zones remains protected under the First Amendment. If you see a zone posted, please note the location and send me a message at ellen@leavenfortheloaf.com.


See Leaven for the Loaf’s coverage of buffer zone developments since 2013.

 

A reminder of what “local control” once meant to buffer zone advocates

The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services committee held a hearing on HB 1570 this afternoon. That’s the buffer zone repeal bill, and I’ll have a longer report later. For now, I’ll tell you what went on today that would have had me yelling at the committee if not for the restraining memory of the gentle teachings of my youth.

What was claimed today

Two state representatives who have supported the buffer zone from its days as a bill are Janet Wall and Timothy Horrigan, both Democrats from Strafford County district 6 (Durham and Madbury). Reps. Wall and Horrigan both testified against repeal at today’s hearing. Both were members of the House Judiciary Committee in 2014 when the buffer zone bill had its House committee hearing.

Representative Horrigan told senators at today’s hearing that buffer zones “have to be approved by municipal government.”

Representative Wall told the senators that the buffer zone law was written to be “consistent with local control. Current [buffer zone law] allows communities to determine what’s best for them.”


The problem with those claims is that the House committee on which both Horrigan and Wall served in 2014 refused to give municipalities a substantive rather than advisory role in the establishment of zones.

The fate of “local control” when the buffer zone bill was under consideration

I was present at the hearings when the buffer zone bill was under consideration in 2014. I attended the House Judiciary Committee’s executive session on the bill in May 2014. This is what transpired, according to the post I made just after that executive session. Note the remarks made by Reps. Wall and Horrigan.

Rep. Robert Rowe (R-Amherst) attempted to introduce an amendment to require that abutters be notified before imposition of a buffer zone and that there be a public hearing with the planning board to review the site plan in conjunction with law enforcement and public works representatives. That launched an illuminating if sobering discussion of what abortion advocates think of things like transparency, notice and hearings.

Rep. Janet Wall was concerned that the planning board “adds another layer to the process.” Rowe replied, “I did this not to add layers but to bring fairness to the process. I’m not trying to establish a roadblock.” Wall said, “Some people could interpret it that way.”

Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) was blunter. “This would give municipalities veto power.”…

Rep. Charlene Takesian (R-Pelham) agreed with Berch. “I thought we were trying to set a state standard. Rep. Rowe’s amendment would give too much local control.” Durham’s Rep. Timothy Horrigan agreed. “This might give a planning board veto power. Don’t give a local board the power to override state statute.” From Rep. David Woodbury: this offers municipalities the chance “to make mischief.” Rep. Sylvia Gale, who said at last week’s executive session that she has been a patient “escort” at abortion facilities, warned that hearings and notice might allow people to “hijack the process.”

I was as distressed then as I was today at the willingness of legislators to delegate to private, unelected, unaccountable business entities the right to determine whether and when the public may occupy public property.

Here’s what the law says: “Prior to posting the signage [setting up a buffer zone] a reproductive health care facility shall consult with local law enforcement and those local authorities with responsibilities specific to the approval of locations and size of the signs to ensure compliance with local ordinances.” Note that word “consult.” No public hearings. No public notice. No municipality may prevent an abortion facility from establishing  a First-Amendment-free zone on public property; it may merely be “consulted” about the location and size of the signs demarcating the zone.

Long live local control.

 

Buffer zone lawsuit dismissed; pro-life witness continues; abortion facilities may attempt to enforce “zones”


In a March 31 order, federal judge Joseph Laplante dismissed the Reddy v. Foster case that challenged a New Hampshire law permitting anti-First Amendment “buffer zones” outside abortion facilities. Laplante ruled that the pro-life plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit, since no zones have been posted since passage of the law in 2014 and therefore no one has been prosecuted to any extent.

Photo by Beth Scaer
Photo by Beth Scaer

Peaceful pro-life witness not otherwise proscribed on public sidewalks and rights-of-way outside abortion facilities in New Hampshire remains protected where no buffer zone is posted. No First Amendment rights were struck down in Laplante’s decision.

A bill to repeal the buffer zone law will get a Senate committee hearing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, in room 101 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

The buffer zone law permits abortion facility operators to post a zone around their facilities of up to 25 feet within which no demonstration, including silent prayer, may take place. The 25-foot zone may include public sidewalks and rights-of-way.

Court: no enforcement = no grounds for litigation

The buffer zone law has been on hold since shortly after the Reddy v. Foster case was filed.  Abortion facility operators, together with the New Hampshire Attorney General and other defendants, either agreed to refrain from enforcement or were ordered by the court to refrain, pending resolution of the case. With the March 31 dismissal, those agreements are dissolved and abortion facility managers are free to post buffer zones.

Laplante’s decision to dismiss the case did not reach the point of addressing First Amendment implications of the law. He found that plaintiffs’ lack of standing to bring the lawsuit was sufficient grounds for dismissal, regardless of other legal issues. “Before the Act can be enforced…one of the clinics must demarcate a zone…[and post] tje appropriate signage,” he noted in his ruling.

Laplante left open the possibility of future litigation in the event any New Hampshire abortion facility establishes a buffer zone. “Once a zone is in place,” wrote Laplante, “[plaintiffs] and others in their position would still have an opportunity to seek injunctive relief….At that time the court would have before it sufficient factual developments to conduct a proper McCullen type of review.”

McCullen v. Coakley was the unanimous 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law.

What now? Some personal observations, not to be confused with legal advice

I am not a lawyer, and this should not be construed as legal advice. Read that line twice. …but as one of many pro-life Granite Staters, this is how I see the dismissal of Reddy v. Foster. Any attorney who finds a serious error here needs to point it out to me.

  • Abortion facilities are still places where peaceful pro-life witness is essential. Lives at all stages are at stake.
  • Peaceful and otherwise legal pro-life witness on public property is not affected around any abortion facility that does not have a posted buffer zone.
  • Where there IS a zone, peaceful witness might or might not trigger enforcement; that’s strictly up to the abortion facility staff.
  • If police are called, and a law enforcement official asks the pro-life witness to knock it off, the pro-life witness who chooses noncompliance runs the risk of being cited for violation of the buffer zone law (among other things). A written warning is supposed to come before a citation. The citation would be for a violation-level offense and carry a minimum fine of $100.
  • By the way, one of the conditions in the Statement of Peace for 40 Days for Life is cooperation with local authorities.
  • A pro-life witness who finds her or his First Amendment rights chilled by enforcement of the buffer zone law, as opposed to the threat of enforcement, should run – not walk – to the nearest attorney with experience in defending the First Amendment rights of pro-life people.
  • I have thought since the law was passed that it’s a good idea for pro-life witnesses to work in pairs. I’m even more convinced of that now. I may have to give up solo 7 a.m. vigil hours during 40 Days for Life.  It makes sense to have multiple pro-life witnesses who can attest to the circumstances surrounding any event or challenge.
  • The biblical admonition to be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves is apt. Be careful as well as prayerful out there.