Citizens weigh in on NH buffer zone law

Apr 01, 2015

Following a Supreme Court dismissal of a similar law in Massachusetts, NH’s “buffer zone” legislation, which established a 25-foot protest free zone around reproductive health clinics, looked to be standing on shaky legal ground. A bill which recently passed the House (HB 403) would repeal the law, which supporters argue could open the state up to costly litigation. On April 1, the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) put the issue to Facebook members, asking, “Should NH repeal the protest-free "buffer zone" around reproductive health clinics?”

Opinion was nearly split, with 52% of those directly answering the question expressing support for a repeal and 48% signaling opposition. A further 39% of total respondents opted not to give a yes or no response, instead addressing their comments to broader issues. In sum, the LFDA received 106 specific comments and 271 concurrences for a total of 377 citizen responses. 

Those in favor of a repeal argued that the law infringed upon protestors’ right to free speech. “Protesters still have a right to be on a public sidewalk, even if you disagree with them,” one commenter wrote. “There is no right to anonymity when entering a public building, so unless they're harassed, I don't see the problem,” another argued. “Let’s not open ourselves to pricey litigation,” cautioned a third. 

Opponents of a repeal argued that the law was needed for the protection of patients entering clinics. “People going into these clinics deserve their space, and their right to not be harassed,” one commenter said. “Twenty-five feet is certainly close enough to make your feelings known,” another pointed out. “No reason people need to be closer than the buffer zone,” one respondent wrote. 

Those addressing their comments to broader issues largely debated the legality of abortion. “No one should interfere in a woman’s choice,” one person wrote. “Turn the abortion clinics into adoption clinics,” suggested another. 

Click here to read the full Facebook discussion for this question. 

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