'Buffer Zone' Bill Passes N.H. Senate, Heads to Gov.

May 23, 2014 — The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday voted 13-10 to approve the state House's changes to a bill (SB 319) that would create a "buffer zone" of 25 feet around reproductive health clinics, the AP/Portsmouth Herald reports.

The bill now goes to Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) for consideration. Hassan has not indicated whether she will sign it (AP/Portsmouth Herald, 5/23).

The bill applies to all five of the state's abortion clinics, but it was created to address protests at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Manchester.

Supreme Court Decision Expected

Senators rejected a recommendation from state Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sharon Carson (R) that they negotiate with the state House to reconcile the two versions.

Carson said taking time for negotiations would allow the Supreme Court to release its decision on a similar Massachusetts law, which could come next week. Lawmakers could then alter the bill to be in line with the decision, she said.

The House version specifies that clinics must clearly define the buffer zone's boundaries to aid in enforcement. It also states that the bill would take effect 30 days after the governor's signature.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Donna Soucy (D), said the changes are minor and noted that senators already debated the issue and approved the bill earlier this year (Rayno, New Hampshire Union Leader, 5/22).