New Hampshire senate just passed a bill that would create a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. SB 319 passed 15 to 9, despite the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3 to 2 to reject the bill. The bill had strong bipartisan support in the senate; this most likely contributed to the bill’s passage. The bill is now headed to to the house for a vote.
If the bill passes the house, New Hampshire will join 16 other states (Maine included) that have enacted clinic protection laws. Only three states – Colorado, Massachusetts, and Montana – have statewide laws that create a buffer zone or “bubble” between the clinic and the protestors.
If passed and implemented, all five of New Hampshire’s abortion facilities would establish a “limited buffer zone” designed to balance the fundamental free speech rights of the protestors and the safety and privacy of the people accessing the clinics. Last year, patients and clients filed over 60 complaints about their experiences of harassment and intimidation at the hands of anti-abortion protestors standing outside the facilities. SB 319, like Portland’s buffer zone law, recognizes that citizens have the rights to assemble peacefully and protest or counsel against abortion. The law also recognizes that people’s First Amendment rights should not interfere with the safety of others and their access to the full reproductive rights granted to them by the Constitution.