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Nation/World

June 27, 2014

Buffer zone law under spotlight in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The constitutionality of a New Hampshire law allowing buffer zones around reproductive health facilities’ entrances was questioned yesterday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Massachusetts law.

Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the New Hampshire law earlier this month. It takes effect July 10 and allows buffer zones of up to 25 feet around the clinic entrances. Hassan said she will closely review yesterday’s ruling to see if it affects New Hampshire, but pointed out New Hampshire’s law is narrow and different from Massachusetts’ law.

“Women should be able to safely access health care and family planning services, and the bipartisan legislation that I signed earlier this month was narrowly tailored, with input from the law enforcement community and municipal officials, to ensure the safety and privacy of patients and the public, while also protecting the right to free speech,” Hassan said in a statement.

Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy adviser for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said her organization also is reviewing the ruling to see if it affects New Hampshire.

“It’s too early to speculate how this will affect access to New Hampshire’s reproductive health facilities,” she said.

But Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, said he hopes the ruling will stop the law from being enforced.

“The buffer zone bill takes people’s freedom of speech away,” said Boutin.

New Hampshire’s law allows local officials and the clinics to tailor each zone to fit the neighborhood where the clinic is located, but Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Sharon Carson said she does not believe that is enough for New Hampshire’s law to pass constitutional muster. Carson, a Hudson Republican who opposed the law, said she will be interested in hearing what Hassan and Attorney General Joseph Foster say after a review.

“I think the law is unconstitutional,” she said.

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