New Hampshire will continue to restrict pro-lifers’ freedom to speak after the state Senate killed a bill Thursday that would have repealed buffer zones outside of abortion clinics, the Union Leader reports.
The state Senate voted 12-12 to repeal a 2014 law that restricts pro-lifers from coming within 25 feet of abortion clinics, according to the report. Because of the tie vote, the measure failed.
A group of state legislators have been working to repeal the law ever since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Massachusetts buffer zone law in 2014. In a rare, unanimous decision, the high court ruled that the buffer zone violated the First Amendment by restricting access to public walkways and sidewalks that “have traditionally been open for speech activities.”
Buffer zones not only restrict pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, they also hinder women’s access to information about alternatives to abortion. Abortion clinics are in the business of selling abortions and often do not give women accurate information about the abortion procedure, their unborn child or the alternatives available to them. Sidewalk counselors often provide this information, giving women one last opportunity to make a life-affirming decision for their unborn babies.
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Several New Hampshire legislators who voted against the repeal argued that their state law is not being enforced because of the Supreme Court decision. They also mentioned “escalating” violence outside of abortion clinics and the need to protect abortion employees and patients.
State Sen. Donna Soucy, who sponsored the 2014 buffer zone legislation, defended it before the vote on Thursday, according to the report.
“I worked to make sure it was a New Hampshire solution that was narrowly tailored,” Soucy said. “This law balances safety with free speech.”
The legislators also killed a second abortion-related bill in a tie vote on Thursday, according to the report. The bill would have required New Hampshire to begin collecting data on abortions in the state. Most states already collect abortion data and report it to the Centers for Disease Control. However, several states, including California. Maryland and New Hampshire, still do not collect the data, leaving an incomplete picture of abortion numbers in the U.S.
In February, New Hampshire lawmakers also rejected a bill that would have required basic medical care for babies born alive after botched abortions, LifeNews reported.