CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Gov. Maggie Hassan plans to sign a hotly debated bill Tuesday that will allow New Hampshire’s reproductive health facilities where abortions are offered to set buffer zones of up to 25 feet around their entrances.
The bill was filed in response to protests and picket activity at Planned Parenthood’s health center in Manchester. Bill supporters said more than 60 patient complaints have been logged since the beginning of 2013.
Supporters argue the buffer zone will ensure the privacy and dignity of people using the clinics, but opponents say the bill infringes on the free speech rights of abortion opponents.
“Governor Hassan believes that women should be able to access critical health services without fearing for their safety, and this commonsense, bipartisan measure will help ensure the privacy and safety of both patients and the public,” said Hassan spokesman William Hinkle.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of a 35-foot protest free zone outside Massachusetts abortion clinics.
Nationwide, clinics have dealt with threats and violence, including the 1994 shooting deaths of two employees in Boston-area clinics. Opponents of New Hampshire’s proposed law said the problems experienced elsewhere have not occurred in New Hampshire.
No one has been prosecuted under the 2007 Massachusetts law, which state officials and clinic employees have said has resulted in less congestion outside the clinics. The Supreme Court bars protests on the plaza outside its own building, but allows them on public sidewalks. It last considered abortion clinic protest zones in 2000, when it upheld a Colorado law.
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