Top court strikes down Mass. abortion clinic buffer; effect on NH law under scrutiny
“Women should be able to safely access health care and family planning services, and the bipartisan legislation that I signed earlier this month was narrowly tailored, with input from the law enforcement community and municipal officials, to ensure the safety and privacy of patients and the public, while also protecting the right to free speech,” Hassan said.
The New Hampshire law, which goes into effect July 10, establishes a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. The law allows for flexible buffer zones tailored to the facility, advocates said.
Jerry Bergevin, a former state representative, was among those praying. He said the buffer zone wouldn’t have stopped the picketing, just moved it across the street.
The Supreme Court ruled the Massachusetts law is too restrictive when the state has other options to address potential clashes outside clinics and to protect patients from intimidation and interference.
But an opponent of the Granite State law says it mimics the Bay State’s statute and should not go into effect.
“In siding with the plaintiffs in this case, the court has agreed that these buffer zone laws pose an onerous burden to the free speech rights of those who wish to educate, protest, or otherwise exercise their constitutional rights around these facilities,” Carson said.
The court’s ruling notes that the Massachusetts problems centered on one clinic in Boston; the problems in New Hampshire are limited to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Manchester. She said those issues can be addressed locally.
The law’s prime sponsor, Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said it is too early to determine the impact of the ruling.
Jennifer Frizzell, vice president for public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the New Hampshire law addressed some of the issues argued before the Supreme Court, such as allowing law enforcement and other local officials to work with clinics to craft appropriate buffer zones that fit the neighborhood.
“New Hampshire’s legislation was narrowly tailored to balance important constitutional rights and differs in significant ways from the Massachusetts law that was struck down in today’s decision,” Frizzell said. “It’s too early to speculate how this will affect access to New Hampshire’s reproductive health facilities.”
Bryan McCormack of Cornerstone Action said New Hampshire’s law is unsupportable.