HB 1625, The Sidewalk Free Speech Act, is the newest attempt to repeal the current prohibition on gathering in a public area that is near a reproductive “health care” facility. As we have for similar legislation in the past, Cornerstone strongly supports this bill. Not only does it address what is essentially a throttle on free speech in the state, the constitutionality of our current “buffer zone” is in question (a similar law was invalidated in Massachusetts under the First Amendment). The bill is currently pending a vote in the full House.
HB 1625 is needed to rectify a longstanding law that is questionable on its merits. No abortion facility has invoked the law to date nor attempted to prosecute under it, but it remains a cudgel with which to threaten those who peacefully seek to voice their opposition to abortion. Because of the lack of enforcement, there is no legal case with which to challenge the law, so we must seek legislative remedy.
HB 1625 argues that the 2014 restrictions currently in NH law (RSA 132:37-40) have never been actively enforced, serve no public purpose, and most likely would be found unconstitutional if enforcement was attempted. That has not stopped Planned Parenthood from working against repeal by soliciting their supporters to contact elected officials.
Defending our freedom of speech has never been more important. It is not only guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution but is even more strongly protected by the New Hampshire Bill of Rights (Part 1 Article 22) which states that free speech shall be “inviolably preserved.” Despite this, our citizens face growing threats at every level of government from those who seek to suppress opposing ideas rather than debate them. Abortion draws strong views from both sides, but spirited discussion is a key purpose of freedom of speech and necessary for the health of our republic. Governor Sununu agrees with us and has gone on record with his support for the repeal of the “buffer” zone provision. There has never been a more critical time to remove any attempted infringement on our inviolable right to free speech.
Update as of April 28, 2022:
Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Ought To Pass on HB 1625. The bill is now headed to the full Senate to be voted on. Please contact your Senator and ask that they vote in favor of the Committee’s recommendation of Ought to Pass on HB 1625.