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N.H. 'Buffer Zone' Law Unenforced During Legal Challenge

July 17, 2014 — The New Hampshire attorney general's office will not enforce a state "buffer zone" law (SB 319) that took effect last week while a federal judge considers a related lawsuit over the law's constitutionality, the Portsmouth Herald reports (Dinan, Portsmouth Herald, 7/15).

The law created a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in the state.

Legal Background

Last week, a Christian legal group filed a federal lawsuit against the law, alleging that the measure violates antiabortion-rights protesters' right to free speech. The group, called the Alliance Defending Freedom, is the same organization that led a challenge resulting in a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Massachusetts "buffer zone" law.

The attorney general is confident that the law is constitutional, according to a spokesperson for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). The New Hampshire law differs from the Massachusetts measure in that it gives clinics flexibility to determine the size of their buffer zone, as long as it does not exceed 25 feet (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

According to the Herald, an initial hearing over the lawsuit is scheduled for July 25 in U.S. District Court. The case involves the Joan G. Loverling Center, a women's health center in Greenland, N.H. (Portsmouth Herald, 7/15).