Time to kill the “buffer zone” law

“Safety and balance.” That has been the cry parroted by supporters of New Hampshire’s unenforced and unenforceable buffer zone law ever since its introduction and passage in 2014. Keeping people safe means keeping people silent: that’s some screwy balance. No wonder the law has never been used.

It’s time for the Sidewalk Free Speech Act, HB 430, which will have its hearing tomorrow, February 9, at 2 p.m. It will repeal the buffer zone law, if passed.

Four times, efforts to repeal that law have failed. It’s imperative to keep trying. It’s time to erase a blot on New Hampshire’s statutes by getting rid of the buffer zone law. See the end of this post for details on how you can let legislators know that.

HB 430 ought to pass with an overwhelming majority. Anyone who values the First Amendment will support it. Abortion will be unaffected when HB 430 passes, but First Amendment rights will be reaffirmed.

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Weekend Reading, 4/8/16

Every Friday, I’ll offer you links to three posts of the week from other blogs and news sources to take you into the weekend. My favorite writers, a fresh take on a familiar topic, or just plain interesting stuff: look for the cream of the week’s crop right here (after you read Leaven’s posts, of course). 

Kathryn Lopez, “Healing After Abortion”

“This is the side of the pro-life movement that isn’t usually in the headlines. Abortion seldom makes the front pages — not unless, say,  a major presidential candidate puts his foot in his mouth. And so it was when Donald Trump answered a very typical question from Chris Matthews. The MSNBC host was asking about the mainstream caricature of those who oppose abortion. And Trump, betraying a total unfamiliarity with the ministries and attitudes and heart of the movement, bought into and fed the caricature. It would do him good to meet the community of women religious… founded [by Cardinal O’Connor] 25 years ago. The cardinal had pledged that anyone who was pregnant and needed help could come to the Church in New York and find it. The Sisters would be at the heart of that help.” Read the rest of the post… 

Steve MacDonald, “Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Lies (Updated)” (granitegrok.com)

“So you will be instituting the buffer-zones immediately? You know, to protect women from the ‘violence, harassment, or threats’ to which you claim they have been subjected. That would be the right thing to do.

“But what does it say if you don’t? Every day you wait aren’t you subjecting women to this treatment you insist exists? What does that say about your commitment to safe, legal healthcare for these women? What does it say about you?

“It says you really don’t care, doesn’t it? It says that you are a liar. That this is all just a game to you.

“So get those buffer-zones in place, then we can find out if this law is as constitutional as you claim.” Read the rest of the post...

Béatrice Fedor: “Abortion pictures on the street: Why Not?” (400wordsforwomen.com)

“Abortion images don’t exactly say: ‘I care about you. Come to me if you are pregnant and scared.’ On the contrary, an abortion-minded woman would most likely run faster to the abortion clinic.

“Also, trying to confront post-abortive women with a graphic depiction of their sin doesn’t say: ‘I understand that you are hurting. You can confide in me and I can refer you to an abortion recovery program’. Instead, it says: ‘I’m judging you for what you have done. There is a huge, irreconcilable difference between me and people like you.’ Read the rest of the post…

Note to AG Foster: Londonderry gets it right

Some days, the morning headlines are just too good to be true. I hope New Hampshire attorney general Joseph Foster sees this one.

Here’s a summary: On the mean streets of Londonderry over the weekend, a man attempted to interfere with two women who were going about their business. He was trying to contact them with an important message. They didn’t want to hear it. He persisted. He was warned to cease and desist. Being a young idealist, he kept on keepin’ on. Finally the cops saw him yelling at the women. That did it: he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Police used existing law to deal with the situation. Perfect. No need to “buffer” the First Amendment to protect those women.

The women were Governor Hassan and Senator Shaheen. They were walking in a parade, not walking into an abortion facility. They were entitled to safety, as are clients and workers at abortion facilities. The man arrested for disorderly conduct was wearing a chicken suit (you can’t make this up), not carrying a “choose life” sign. The Londonderry police didn’t need a special law to be passed in the name of “safety and balance” in order to do their job. Chicken Man was cited for disorderly conduct, and the parade went on without further incident.

Perhaps the defendants in Reddy v. Foster could look at how Londonderry handled the situation at the parade. New Hampshire’s buffer zone law already looks unconstitutional. Londonderry makes it look silly as well. Laws are already in place against disorderly conduct and violence and trespassing. The disorderly conduct arrest at the parade brings to mind a crucial point in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Massachusetts’s old buffer zone law: a law abridging the First Amendment outside abortion facilities – or anyplace else – cannot possibly hold up in court if less-restrictive measures to control disruptive behavior haven’t been used.

It was Londonderry’s state senator, Sharon Carson, who made the principal arguments against the buffer zone when the bill came up in the Senate. She spoke powerfully, warning her colleagues about the First Amendment violation inherent in the bill.

I don’t know what’s in the water in Londonderry, but I sure hope it spreads.

Super Secret Stuff

Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Photo from nh.gov
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Photo from nh.gov

[Update: Shortly after I posted this, an attorney gently inquired of me if the Governor’s action has to wait on formal enrollment of the bill, in addition to the votes. I defer to him on matters like that, and I apologize for any error I made.]

The Governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, is a frankly and fully identified “pro-choicer.” The passage of SB 319, the buffer zone law, should be on her desk by now. So when’s the party?

According to her web site, Hassan has issued statements immediately upon the passage of several bills this session: Medicaid expansion, a transportation funding bill, improvements to the state’s domestic violence laws, “paycheck fairness.” Nowhere on the list, at least as of noon today, is a statement on the passage of the buffer zone bill.

Passage of landmark pieces of legislation in areas promoted by the chief executive usually feature a thumbs-up statement as soon as the legislature passes the bill, followed by a signing ceremony with advocates of the bill looking on approvingly. So far, no thumbs-up on the Governor’s web page. No announcement of a signing ceremony (although I’m sure one is in the works). What’s she waiting for?

model signI can’t believe she’ll avoid a ceremonial signing, nor can I believe she’ll let it become law without her signature. She has a few days yet to prove me wrong. Is she just waiting for confirmation from the major abortion providers that their signs are ready to go up? The law will go into effect the moment she signs it, but it can’t be enforced at any abortion facility until the signs are up around it. Perhaps she was hoping yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions would include one upholding Massachusetts’s buffer zone law. No luck there.

The buffer zones, those “no First Amendment for you” signs, will go up any day now. You’d think, though, that there’d be more celebration from an EMILY’s List beneficiary.