So congratulations to Steve Stepanek on his election as Chairman of the New Hampshire GOP:
I don’t disagree that the New Hampshire Republican Party has a money problem. More specifically, that it cannot raise any. But money is not going to be enough to right this sinking ship. This:
By patient safety zones, Planned Parenthood means no-free-speech-zones outside abortion clinics. In 2014, in a case titled McCullen v. Coakley, all nine United States Supreme Court justices agreed that a Massachusetts statute that created a general no-speech zone on streets and sidewalks within 35 feet of an abortion clinic violates the First Amendment.
The New Hampshire law is substantively identical to the unconstitutional Massachusetts law:
132:38 Prohibited Acts. –
I. No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius up to 25 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit, or driveway of a reproductive health care facility. This section shall not apply to the following:
(a) Persons entering or leaving such facility.
(b) Employees or agents of such facility acting within the scope of their employment for the purpose of providing patient escort services only.
(c) Law enforcement, ambulance, firefighting, construction, utilities, public works and other municipal agents acting within the scope of their employment.
(d) Persons using the public sidewalk or street right-of-way adjacent to such facility solely for the purpose of reaching a destination other than such facility.
II. Reproductive health care facilities shall clearly demarcate the zone authorized in paragraph I and post such zone with signage containing the following language:
Reproductive Health Center
Patient Safety Zone
No Congregating, Patrolling, Picketing, or Demonstrating Between Signs
Pursuant to RSA 132:38
III. Prior to posting the signage authorized under paragraph II, a reproductive health care facility shall consult with local law enforcement and those local authorities with responsibilities specific to the approval of locations and size of the signs to ensure compliance with local ordinances.
IV. The provisions of this section shall only be effective during the facility’s business hours.
In fact, a lawsuit was brought against the New Hampshire law on First Amendment grounds, but was dismissed as premature because no abortion clinics had yet established a “safety (no-free-speech) zone.”
It bears repeating, what the vote referenced in Planned Parenthood’s tweet is about is free speech. Planned Parenthood’s contention that the law is about safety is laughable. The law does not limit itself to obstructing, detaining, hindering, impeding or blocking access to abortion clinics. It encompasses speech opposing abortion.
Yet Republicans -or more accurately Representatives calling themselves Republicans- voted with the Democrats to abridge the free speech of people who oppose abortion. I have not seen the vote. But the committee is composed of twelve Democrats and eight Republicans:
So given that only four Republicans voted against repealing the no-free-speech zones, at least two Republicans and as many as half of the Republicans on the committee voted to criminalize speech they disagree with.
I recognize that the New Hampshire Republican Party is not pro-life. Indeed the Governor touts that he is pro-choice.
But how can the Republican Party present a coherent alternative to the Democrats when -based on the committee vote- a significant number of Representatives calling themselves Republicans agree with the Democrats that the First Amendment should not apply to pro-life speech?
This is hardly an anomaly. It’s more the rule than the exception that the New Hampshire Republican Party fractures.
If the only thing binding the New Hampshire Republican Party are the Koch-driven corporate tax cuts and Republicans fracture on issues like the First Amendment there is not a functional Republican Party in New Hampshire.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the Republicans need to be like the Ray Buckley Democrats and always vote in unison. What I am saying is that you cannot have one-quarter to one-half of the Party consistently voting with the Democrats and be a functional Party.
The individuals calling themselves Republicans who voted against the First Amendment own their votes. But I actually place more blame on Minority Leader Hinch.
It’s Hinch’s job to stay on top of these votes. I’m not saying he had the power to force the Republicans on the committee to vote the right way. But did he even try? If private persuasion was tried and failed, he could have spoke out in favor of the bill before the committee vote or rebuked it afterwards to clarify that House leadership supported repeal. But I found nothing of the sort on the House GOP website.
Instead one is left wondering if the Republican House leadership agrees with the Democrats that pro-life speech should not be protected by the First Amendment.
The new GOP Chairman needs to ask Mr. Hinch and Mr. Morse to sit down for a meeting. Money is not going to be enough.