As a Former Planned Parenthood Escort, I'm Cheering the New Hampshire Buffer Law
By nelle douville on June 11, 2014
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On Tuesday, we celebrated a little big victory. Our state committed to the safety of all who make use of, pass by, live near, or even object to reproductive health clinics.
At a time when the United States trends toward more restrictions on the right of reproductive choices, one state just went the other way: New Hampshire.
The afternoon of June 10, Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law a bill originally sponsored by Senator Donna Soucy, creating a 25-foot buffer zone around the entrances to reproductive health clinics in this state.
Watch coverage on WMUR.
For 18 months, I volunteered as an escort at the Manchester, New Hampshire Planned Parenthood. During my tenure, I escorted countless patients inside, patients in tears for the abuse inflicted upon them on the short walk to the door. Some wore their outrage. A few left and returned another week. I recall one declaring herself stronger for her week away. And personally, terms as "baby killer" flew at me. They challenged me over my future encounter with a God I don’t believe in.
In turn, I resorted to a Tiffany-pattern umbrella to block line of sight. I could do nothing for the shouts, but breaking eye contact helped a great deal.
Some protesters brought children. Children no more than three often sat in a commercial driveway, where parallel-parked cars encroached on the entry and made it difficult for drivers to see when exiting. Protestors stood in that driveway as well, one 50 feet from the doorway. I’ve seen those who accompany patients react with anger and move toward potential confrontation.
The protesters claim this new law infringes upon their right of free speech. At 50 feet — from fence to building door — I had no trouble hearing their taunt of "murderer". Twenty-five feet equates to a car length and a half.
This law protects people by creating a small, reasonable zone that will keep the entry clear and children away from cars. It provides a cooling down distance where people can think before they interact. What it does not do is remove a right.
The Supreme Court will have last say, the final authority on law, an entity with its own buffer zone in place. While the ruling is imminent, the New Hampshire law is different from the Massachusetts law. It has a chance to survive even if the Supremes overturn the one in place there, although I hope both make it. These reasonable protections are safety measures, and there is clear precedent for safety measures trumping unfettered speech.
This day counts as a major highlight in my life. While escorting at Planned Parenthood, I kept statistics on all doings out-of-doors, a running record of access and encounters, a procedure implemented by agreement between the health centre manager and me. Beyond the recording of data, I worked events for Planned Parenthood, and met incredible people who believe in choice, many of whom are politically active. I was there today with them, and if you watch the video, I’m just to the right of the governor, one person or so removed, in the back – the blonde one who bursts into applause (and tears unseen) when Governor Hassan declared the bill law.
What a moment, to see her use four different signing pens, etching her name on a document produced by need, effort, and the workings of democracy. I concede the emotion, tears for everyone who advocated for and who will benefit from this bill.
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