We told the NH legislature to wait before passing SB319 ( a bill to establish a 25 foot no free speech buffer zone around every abortion/women’s health care facility in the state), but they didn’t listen. Now, a Supreme Court decision on a case in Massachusetts has made SB319 a violation of first amendment rights. Funny. Isn’t that what we said it was?
By unanimous decision the US Supreme Court has ruled that an abortion buffer zone in Massachusetts is unconstitutional and violates first amendment rights.
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts.
The justices were unanimous in ruling that extending a buffer zone 35 feet from clinic entrances violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.
Chief Justice John Roberts said authorities have less intrusive ways to deal with problems outside the clinics and noted that most of the problems reported by police and the clinics occurred outside the Planned Parenthood facility in Boston, and only on Saturdays when the largest crowds typically gather.
Everyone knew this decision was coming down this session.
Nice waste of Taxpayer time and money NH Legislature. And you too Governor Hassan–you signed it in to law.
Andrew Hemingway, Candidate for Governor of NH, released the following statement:
“This is a victory for the First Amendment. This is a victory for the right to free assembly and the right to free speech. This court unanimously put aside any political preferences on the issue of abortion and acknowledged this is simply a matter of the First Amendment–something Maggie Hassan refused to recognize in her zeal to protect abortion providers, which is one protection not covered in the Constitution. This is yet another example of Governor Hassan’s extreme ideology—trampling on the Constitution to advance her personal political agenda.”—
Andrew Hemingway, NH Gubernatorial Candidate
Hot air has a section of Justice Scalia’s remarks where the court left out something very important on the way to its decision.
The second half of the Court’s analysis today, invalidating the law at issue because of inadequate “tailoring,” is certainly attractive to those of us who oppose an abortion speech edition of the First Amendment. But think again. This is an opinion that has Something for Everyone, and the more significant portion continues the onward march of abortion-speech-only jurisprudence. …
Does a statute become “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech” simply because the statute itself and those defending it in court say that it is? Every objective indication shows that the provision’s primary purpose is to restrict speech that opposes abortion.
I begin, as suggested above, with the fact that the Act burdens only the public spaces outside abortion clinics. One might have expected the majority to defend the statute’s peculiar targeting by arguing that those locations regularly face the safety and access problems that it says the Act was designed to solve. But the majority does not make that argument because it would be untrue. As the Court belatedly discovers in Part IV of its opinion, although the statute applies to all abortion clinics in Massachusetts, only one is known to have been beset by the problems that the statute supposedly addresses. See ante, at 26, 28. The Court uses this striking fact (a smoking gun, so to speak) as a basis for concluding that the law is insufficiently “tailored” to safety and access concerns (Part IV) rather than as a basis for concluding that it is not directed to those concerns at all, but to the suppression of antiabortion speech. That is rather like invoking the eight missed human targets of a shooter who has killed one victim to prove, not that he is guilty of attempted mass murder, but that he has bad aim.
Whether the statute “restrict[s] more speech than necessary” in light of the problems that it allegedly addresses, ante, at 14–15, is, to be sure, relevant to the tailoring component of the First Amendment analysis (the shooter doubtless did have bad aim), but it is also relevant—powerfully relevant—to whether the law is really directed to safety and access concerns or rather to the suppression of a particular type of speech. Showing that a law that suppresses speech on a specific subject is so far reaching that it applies even when the asserted nonspeech-related problems are not present is persuasive evidence that the law is content based. In its zeal to treat abortion-related speech as a special category, the majority distorts not only the First Amendment but also the ordinary logic of probative inferences.
The structure of the Act also indicates that it rests on content-based concerns. The goals of “public safety, patient access to healthcare, and the unobstructed use of public sidewalks and roadways,” Brief for Respondents 27, are already achieved by an earlier-enacted subsection of the statute, which provides criminal penalties for “[a]ny person who knowingly obstructs, detains, hinders, impedes or blocks another person’s entry to or exit from a reproductive health care facility.” §120E½(e). As the majority recognizes, that provision is easy to enforce. See ante, at 28–29. Thus, the speech-free zones carved out by subsection (b) add nothing to safety and access; what they achieve, and what they were obviously designed to achieve, is the suppression of speech opposing abortion.