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U.S. judge blocks New Hampshire law creating abortion clinic buffers

(Reuters) - A federal judge has halted the enforcement of a New Hampshire law set to go into effect on Thursday that would have allowed abortion providers to set up 25-foot (7.6-meter) buffer zones around clinics.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante issued the ruling late Wednesday granting an injunction sought by a conservative religious group, the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The group sued the state trying to block implementation of the law, which it argued is unconstitutional in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that struck down a similar buffer zone law in Massachusetts.

"The plaintiffs persuasively argue that Senate Bill 319 is materially indistinguishable from the Massachusetts statute that the Supreme Court invalidated in McCullen," LaPlante wrote in his ruling, referring to the Massachusetts case.

The New Hampshire attorney general had already determined that he would not enforce the statute pending a court review.

The injunction ruling was directed at the municipalities Concord and Derry, where officials said they intended to uphold the buffer law on Thursday.

A preliminary hearing on the injunction is scheduled for July 25.

(Reporting by Ted Siefer in Lowell, Mass.; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)

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