NH’s abortion clinic buffer zone law in legal limbo
CONCORD — A federal judge has put on hold all legal action concerning New Hampshire’s abortion clinic buffer zone law, but has not ruled the law unconstitutional.
State and county officials, however, have been ordered not to enforce it.
Sister Mary Rose Reddy of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love who operate the St. Charles Children’s Home in Rochester, and six other plaintiffs, filed suit to have the law ruled unconstitutional. They argue it violates their freedom of speech rights.
The Access to Health Care Facilities Act, scheduled to go into effect on July 10, allowed health facilities that offer abortions to post signs creating a 25-foot buffer zone between clinic clients and protesters.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph N. Laplante issued an “Order on Agreed-Upon Stay” on Wednesday that says state and county officials are not to enforce the law against the plaintiffs, and any defendant who receives notice that a reproductive health clinic intends to post a buffer zone is to immediately notify plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The court “will then schedule a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction forthwith.”
It was an “unconstitutional law that can’t be enforced,” said Michael J. Tierney, an attorney representing Sister Mary Rose, the lead plaintiff.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Nancy J. Smith said there is no way for the court to determine if the law is constitutional since it never was implemented.
The state maintains the law is different from Massachusetts’ law, which was ruled unconsitutional in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that Granite State’s law would survive a constitutional challenge.
Friday’s hearing on a preliminary injunction was cancelled.
The judge said that within 60 days of his order, the parties are to file a joint status report apprising him of any legislative, executive, judicial or factual developments in the case.
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