Tied and tabled: abortion stats and buffer zone repeal fail in the Senate

The New Hampshire Senate on May 5 tabled bills on the First Amendment and public health, after twelve Senators found them too hot to handle. Both bills were characterized by opponents as attacks on abortion rights, although neither would have affected to any degree the rights created by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

Ought-to-pass motions failed 12-12 before the bills were tabled on voice votes. All the Democrats joined Republicans Little and Stiles in blocking passage.

HB 1570 would have repealed the unenforced buffer zone law that protects no one and is strikingly similar to a law that was struck down in 2014 in a unanimous Supreme Court decision. HB 629 would have instituted an abortion statistics reporting program such as exists in more than forty other states that report aggregate data to the Centers for Disease Control.

On buffer zone repeal, neither the arguments nor the votes have changed a bit since 2015’s repeal effort, which failed by the same 12-12 tally. Peaceful pro-life witnesses will be barred from public sidewalks “up to 25 feet” from an abortion facility as soon as the facility decides to take the plunge and post a buffer zone. (Litigation would be sure to follow.) Meanwhile, anyone posing a violent threat to anyone inside or outside an abortion facility may or may not be deterred by a few don’t-stand-here signs.

A statistics bill could have done more than provide public-health information to the CDC. Any Kermit Gosnell wannabes in the Granite State can rest assured that local public health authorities are blind to any post-abortion complications a woman might experience. Public health officials could have tracked patterns of complications using well-established protocols to protect patient privacy, but that was too threatening for half the Senate. (I wrote more about this bill at Leaven for the Loaf.)

The stats bill, by the way, had a lengthy study period that included the participation of a Department of Health and Human Services representative. Once the bill passed the House on January 6, the Department’s support evaporated. This coincided with the confirmation of Jeffrey Meyers, a Maggie Hassan appointee, to the post of DHHS Commissioner.