New Hampshire Prevails in Abortion Records Fight

     CONCORD, N.H. (CN) – One of New Hampshire’s largest anti-abortion groups was mostly unsuccessful in appealing denied records requests in front of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
     In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the state was correct to withhold clinic financial records and communications related to the ongoing fight over buffer zone in front of health clinics that provide abortions.
     The court remanded the decision to withhold surveillance footage from outside a Planned Parenthood of Northern New England clinic in Manchester for further fact finding to determine if there is a privacy or safety concern.
     “We applaud today’s Supreme Court ruling which upholds the safety and privacy interests of the patients and providers at reproductive health facilities and protects from public disclosure certain information that could be used by anti-abortion groups to threaten or intimidate these individuals,” said Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in an emailed statement.
     New Hampshire Right to Life made three requests for the records in 2014 under the Right to Know Law, which is the state’s version of the Freedom of Information Act.
     The first was for the licenses of six Planned Parenthood clinics that included names of clinic employees.
     The second request was for information and communications between the state and Planned Parenthood pertaining to the state’s 25-foot buffer zone law as well as for surveillance footage from outside of organization’s Manchester location.
     The third request was for financial information to determine how state funding is used by the clinics.
     In response to the requests, the state released the six licenses with employees’ named redacted, which the Supreme Court upheld under the privacy exemption for state records requests.
     The court also agreed with the state’s decision to withhold the buffer zone communications as “attorney work,” which is exempt from records requests.
     Finally, the court opined that the state was right to redact spending amounts in the financial reports on the Joan G. Lovering Health Center because the concealed amounts show the clinic’s activity rather than government activity.
     The only change the court made to the lower court’s ruling was to vacate the decision that pertained to the surveillance footage stored on three DVDs.
     Although the trial court allowed for the footage to be withheld due to safety and privacy concerns, the Supreme Court opined that there was no way to determine if there was a privacy concern because there was not enough information about who is depicted in the video.
     “The DVDs also show passersby walking on the sidewalk who have no apparent connection to PPNNE. Occasionally, individuals are shown walking into the parking lot, however, the nature of their connection to PPNNE, if any, is not obvious. The only individuals whose relationship to PPNNE is readily ascertainable from the DVD footage are the protestors,” wrote Judge James Bassett. “The DVDs also show vehicles that are entering, exiting, or parked in the lot or adjacent to the lot. The license plates of some, but not all, of those vehicles are visible. The DVDs show only the entrance to the parking lot. They do not show the building entrance.”
     The court directed the matter on the DVDs back to the lower court for additional fact finding. The court also reversed the decision to withhold correspondence about the DVDs because they contained no information that falls under privacy concerns.

%d bloggers like this: