As a coalition of groups around the country called for a day of protest outside of Planned Parenthood facilities on April 23, New Hampshire Right to Life organized events near PP offices in Manchester and Derry.
Rep. Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien and Lance Ribiero in Derry.
Witnessing for life in Manchester
On Pennacook Street: the PP employee lot had cars in it, so perhaps workers saw this sign.
Peaceful witness on Pennacook Street
Outside Planned Parenthood in Derry NH.
Jennifer Robidoux on Pennacook Street
Kathy Peterson, Elm Street in Manchester
No buffer zones were posted at either location. An officer in a police cruiser monitored the Manchester event from a nearby parking lot, but there was no counter- demonstration to the peaceful pro-life witness on Pennacook and Elm Streets. Derry’s event was at the intersection of Birch Street and Broadway, a high-visibility intersection a short block away from PP’s Derry office.
The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services committee had to change rooms twice yesterday to find a place with enough seats for the public. About 40 minutes past its scheduled time, the hearing on HB 1570 began, and buffer zone repeal was up for discussion. Will New Hampshire continue to have a law on the books that allows abortion facility operators to determine where and when First Amendment rights may be exercised on public property?
Committee members kept their questions to a minimum, no doubt mindful of the clock. No vote was taken yesterday; action is likely to come soon. There will be a few days’ notice before any Senate floor vote.
In brief, the hearing produced nothing new or shocking. Any information or persuasion that’s going to budge a senator is going to come from private communication. Remember, repeal was tabled after a tie vote in the Senate last year – and remember who voted how.
Here are some notes on this week’s hearing, with my thanks to Jennifer Robidoux who shared her own notes with me after I had to leave the hearing early. This does not mention everyone who testified.
Committee members present were Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford), Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), and Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). Committee member Molly Kelly (D-Harrisville) was absent. If you wish to contact the committee members to let them know it’s time to pass HB 1570 and get rid of the buffer zone, you should do so soon. Contact information is on the Senate web page. If you send an email, put “yes on HB 1570” or something similar in the subject line.
There was no organized demonstration of any kind outside the hearing.
There was no testimony from any municipal or law enforcement official.
Rep. J.R. Hoell, chief sponsor of the repeal bill, reminded the senators that the House has voted twice for repeal (2015 and 2016). He said the situation of having an unenforced law like the buffer zone on the books was “silliness at best.”
Cathy Kelley, who is outside Planned Parenthood in Manchester every Thursday and who founded Pennacook Pregnancy Center, supported repeal. She defended her right to pray and to talk to people outside PP. She spoke of offering healing after abortion. “That’s compassion. That’s what we’re about.” Sue Clifton testified for repeal as well, remarking on ministry to abortion workers. “We pray for abortion workers. We love them all and we are there to offer help.”
Joan Espinola, a plaintiff in Reddy v. Foster, cited both the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions to argue for her freedom to be peacefully present outside abortion facilities. “we’re not out to harm anyone….The Constitution doesn’t give protection from unwanted speech.”
Fellow plaintiff Jennifer Robidoux pointed out that she is already “buffered” from abortion facility clients by private property (e.g. the stockade fence at the Pennacook Street Planned Parenthood); “this law buffers me from public property.”
Attorney MIchael Tierney, who represented plaintiffs in Reddy v. Foster, told the committee that there are already laws on the books against harassment, blockade, and violence. About that: I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders why abortion facility managers don’t call on police to enforce those laws – assuming those laws are being violated.
Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), as she has done since introducing the buffer zone bill in 2014, claimed repeatedly that the New Hampshire buffer zone law is substantively different from the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, in that the old Massachusetts law set a firm 35-foot zone whilethe New Hampshire law allows a zone “up to 25 feet.”Senator Soucy makes this claim despite the fact that the Supreme Court did not use zone size as a factor in striking down the Massachusetts law.
The our-law-is-different-from-Massachusetts claim was also made to the committee by the representative of Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, Kayla McCarthy. She cited an increased “volume” of protests without giving any details, which she might have submitted to the committee in writing.
The New Hampshire Medical Society registered its opposition to buffer zone repeal. So did the New Hampshire Public Health Association, whose spokesman said that the buffer zone law “does not impede protesting in a respectful manner.”
Thumbs up to the New Hampshire Union Leader for trying to undo the smack-my-forehead moment that resulted from their January 17 coverage of New Hampshire’s 2016 march for life. In case you missed it – and it was easy to miss – this was on page A3 today, in the daily “corrections” box, highlighted here:
This “oops” referred to the caption in Sunday’s coverage of the march. I saw it the day I returned from a trip, and I was very confused that the caption bore no relation to the photos I had seen elsewhere taken by people who attended the event. The Sunday News’s coverage via caption was obviously off.
Here’s the Sunday caption, and I’ve highlighted the goof in bold type: “Pro-life marchers, above, are blocked by pro-choice supporters from walking along Concord’s Main Street during Saturday’s annual NH Right to Life’s March for Life. At right, presidential candidate Rand Paul, standing at right, speaks with Garrett Lear, known as the “Patriot Pastor,” of Wakefield on the State House steps. There were about 100 pro-choice supporters and about two dozen pro-life supporters.”
It’s fair to note that the New Hampshire Sunday News, which is the Sunday edition of the Union Leader, carried a photo from the march on page one, above the fold, with a reference to the remainder of the coverage on page C12.
This underscores the importance of pro-lifers posting their own eyewitness accounts and photos of events, and sharing those accounts as much as possible by every means.
It’s also an occasion to thank the Union Leader for doing the right thing by issuing a prompt correction. How many people pay as much attention to corrections as to the stories to which they refer? Not enough, I imagine – but the corrections are essential nonetheless.
THE BILL: New Hampshire’s Senate Bill 319 would impose a 25-foot zone around abortion facilities, within which no demonstrations would be permitted, including silent prayer.
THE HEARING: The Senate Judiciary committee will have a public hearing on the bill Tuesday, January 28, at 9:55 a.m. in room 100 of the State House.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:Show up. Wear a pro-life sticker or button. Sign in. Testify if you are so moved.More about this below. If you can’t come that day, you can send a message to the Judiciary committee.
WHERE TO GO: The State House in Concord is on Main Street. From I-93, exit 14 is the closest exit, but exits 13 or 15 will work as well. Look for the golden dome. Bring a debit card or some quarters for parking. On-street parking near the State House is limited to two hours. Two garages near the State House – one on School Street, one on State Street – allow longer-term parking. Enter the State House through the front doors, nearest the spacious plaza. (Don’t use the coat racks in the lobby; those are for the schoolchildren who come in for tours.) Room 100 is in the hallway to the right of the Hall of Flags in the lobby. A small coat rack is available for use outside the hearing room.
HOW TO SIGN IN: There will be a sign-up sheet either on a table just outside the room (the common procedure for what’s expected to be a crowded hearing) or just inside the room. You will sign up with your name, your town, whether you favor or oppose the bill, and whether or not you wish to speak.
MAKING YOUR OPINION KNOWN: Your presence with a pro-life emblem will speak volumes to the committee, even if you don’t wish to testify. If you wish to submit a written statement without testifying out loud, bring ten copies for the committee clerk, who will be seated at the committee table. If you choose to testify aloud, keep it short. Three minutes maximum, delivered with courtesy. No signs are permitted in the building. Wear a sticker, emblem, or pro-life t-shirt instead.
WHO’S SPONSORING THIS BILL?
Sen. Donna Soucy, Democrat, Manchester wards 5,6,7,8,9 and town of Litchfield.
Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, Democrat, Manchester wards 3,4,10,11 and town of Goffstown.
Sen. Bob Odell, Republican, towns of Acworth, Antrim, Bennington, Bradford, Croydon, Deering, Francestown, Goshen, Grantham, Hillsborough, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Springfield, Stoddard, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Washington, Weare, and Windsor.
Sen. Nancy Stiles, Republican, towns of Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, New Castle, North Hampton, Newton, Rye, Seabrook, Stratham and South Hampton.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, Republican, towns of Albany, Bartlett, Brookfield, Chatham, Conway, Eaton, Effingham, Freedom, Hale’s Location, Hart’s Location, Jackson, Madison, Middleton, Milton, Moultonborough, Ossipee, Sandwich, Tamworth, Tuftonboro, Wakefield, Waterville Valley, and Wolfeboro.
Rep. Patrick Long, Democrat, Manchester wards 1-3.