Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against a New Hampshire law that allows the creation of 25-foot zones in which no person may speak, stand, or even enter on public ways and sidewalks outside of abortion facilities. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a similar law in McCullen v. Coakley, a case ADF attorneys and allied attorneys filed in 2008.
The law explicitly exempts abortion facility escorts, allowing such individuals to engage in speech and expressive activities favorable to abortion – encouraging and compelling women to enter the abortion facilities and continue with the abortions – while prohibiting pro-life advocates from engaging in any expressive activity within the zones. The lawsuit asks the court to put a halt to the law while the case moves forward.
“Americans have the freedom to talk to whomever they please on public sidewalks,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “That includes peaceful pro-life advocates who just want to offer information and help to women who would like it. The Supreme Court recently affirmed this vital freedom, which has been an essential part of American life since the nation’s founding. New Hampshire’s law suffers from the same unconstitutional problems as the one the Supreme Court struck down.”
On June 10, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law S.B. 319-FN, which created the anti-speech zones. Violators face a minimum fine of $100 and possibly further action from the attorney general or appropriate county attorney. The law is scheduled to go into effect Thursday.
On behalf of several pro-life advocates, ADF filed the lawsuit, Reddy v. Foster, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire together with allied attorneys Michael J. Tierney, Michael DePrimo, and Mark Rienzi, professor of constitutional law at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.
As the ADF lawsuit explains with regard to New Hampshire’s law, “The First Amendment contemplates no possible justification for such a measure. The freedom of speech is at its apex on public streets and sidewalks when citizens wish to persuade other citizens by means of leafleting, personal education, and peaceful protest. The U.S. Supreme Court just struck down a similar law from Massachusetts in McCullen v. Coakley…. McCullen directly controls this case and eliminates any plausible legal justification for the law challenged here.”
“New Hampshire has created an expansive anti-speech zone that cannot survive constitutional scrutiny,” explained Tierney, with the Manchester firm of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, PLLC, and one of more than 2,400 attorneys allied with ADF. “There is no constitutional ground for creating speech-restricted zones on public ways and sidewalks.”