Abortion Foes Fight Buffer Zone Bill In New Hampshire

By:  Jack Kenny
Abortion Foes Fight Buffer Zone Bill In New Hampshire

A bill to create a buffer zone, free of protesters, around the entrance of abortion clinic sites drew an overflow crowd to a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, New Hampshire, Tuesday, as "pro-life" activists argued the bill violated their freedom of speech, while "abortion rights" advocates claimed the legislation was necessary to guarantee safe and unimpeded access to the facilities.

People on both sides of the debate filled the seats and stood along the walls of the hearing room before a partition was removed to double the size of the room, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported. More than 40 people signed up to testify, while others watched and listened to the arguments presented to the House Judiciary Committee. The state Senate had passed the bill by a vote of 15-9 in February.

The bill stipulates that no one "shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of 25 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit or driveway" of the facility. Employees "or agents of such facility" are exempted from the ban when "providing patient escort service only." Police, firefighters, and other public officials "acting within the scope of their employment" are also exempted, as are persons passing through the zone en route to another destination. Unauthorized entry or loitering within the zone would be a violation, subject to a $100 fine for repeated offenses.

The bill's "Statement of Findings and Purposes" states that recent demonstrations "have resulted in the fear and intimidation of patients and employees of these facilities," as well as intimidation of people at adjacent homes or businesses, claims contested by some of the activists who stage prayer vigils outside the clinics and attempt to persuade women entering and leaving the facilities to choose life rather than abortion for their pre-born children. 

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