N.H. Abortion Law: Even the Pros are Astounded

Just when I think I’m beyond surprise, this happens.

A reader of this blog who was taken aback at my post about New Hampshire’s lack of abortion regulation decided to write an op-ed column on the topic for her local newspaper. That’s usually a routine process for her. She’s active in her community, and she knows the editor. This time, the editor got back to her and asked for documentation.

In particular, he sought documentation of this fact: New Hampshire allows abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. “Do you have the RSA so I can link the law? There should be a state law that allows…late term abortions.”

That question came from a professional journalist working in New Hampshire.

I checked his profile on LinkedIn. He has worked in this area for many years. He was around when Jeanne Shaheen signed repeal of New Hampshire’s abortion laws. He was in college when Roe v. Wade was handed down. He is a prizewinning editor. He’s a pro.

And he has no idea that late-term abortions are the default setting in the United States. Unless a state has a law placing a time limit on abortion, there is no limit. He also apparently doesn’t know that New Hampshire legislators have repeatedly refused to impose a limit, most recently last year.

The op-ed writer can’t show a New Hampshire law “allowing” late-term abortions because there isn’t one. None is needed in order for unlimited abortion to be legal. Roe v. Wade permits states to assert an interest in protecting the preborn child at the point of viability, but it does not require states to do so.

New Hampshire lawmakers have chosen not to assert that interest.

Whether the reader’s op-ed makes it into print is between her and the editor. I hope it gets published. The editor’s initial reluctance to move ahead with it isn’t a matter of pro-abortion bias.

He honestly can’t believe our state’s situation – not yet, anyway. New Hampshire law allows abortion throughout pregnancy, because New Hampshire law imposes no time limit.

If you think that goes without saying, think again.

Update: within a few days of the initial submission of the op-ed, the editor chose to print it.

Roses and Resolve

It didn’t start with New York.

Video of New York legislators cheering after the January 22 passage of a pro-abortion law leaves an indelible impression. It certainly kicked up a fuss on my social media feed, as one person after another expressed shock that elected officials could celebrate abortion so publicly.

New Hampshire got there first, as a former state representative called to remind me.

Phyllis Woods
Phyllis Woods

Phyllis Woods of Dover was and is a woman who puts her belief in human dignity into practice every day. Being a state representative, as great an honor as that was, was just a waypoint on her journey of service. She told me recently about the day a bill to prevent partial-birth abortion came to a vote in 2000. Phyllis was chief sponsor, joined by nine co-sponsors.

Yes, 2000. That’s twelve years before New Hampshire legislators finally passed a partial-birth law banning the abortion practice of partially delivering children before killing them.

The docket for the bill in 2000 tells part of the story: the House defeated the bill on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion, 185-176. What the docket doesn’t mention, and what I never knew until Phyllis told me, is what happened right after the vote: one of her colleagues, an abortion advocate opposed to banning the killing of partially-delivered children, handed out roses to representatives who helped kill the bill.

That colleague, a Rochester Democrat, is still in office, serving her 16th term. She sits on the Judiciary Committee, where she recently voted to recommend killing an effort to repeal buffer zones that limit peaceful activity near abortion facilities.

In 2000, Phyllis was devastated to see fellow representatives celebrating like that. If they had spiked a football right there on the House floor they couldn’t have been more contemptuous not only of the bill but of its supporters.

That wasn’t the end of the story, of course. It was a bad day. But Phyllis is a woman of resolve and vision.

She was among the sponsors of a 2003 law calling for parental notification for minors seeking abortion. The law was challenged in court, and was eventually repealed. Later, after her time in the House, she encouraged parental notification supporters to try again. In 2011, another parental notification law passed, and it is still in place. Not even a veto by Gov. John Lynch could derail it.

She encouraged partial-birth legislation after she left the House, and she was around to celebrate when the legislature in 2012 overrode yet another Lynch veto and passed a partial-birth ban into law.

Phyllis continues to serve her community in many ways that have nothing to do with politics. She has a heart for her neighbors. I mention her political work only because it illustrates something easy to forget at the State House: opponents are gonna oppose. Sometimes they’ll be rude about it. Be of steadfast heart anyway.

Those roses on the New Hampshire House floor in 2000 were meant to silence and discourage everyone speaking out in defense of life. For Phyllis Woods, that indecorous in-your-face gesture strengthened her resolve.

Facts About N.H. Abortion Laws

(Note: This is based on a post I wrote for Cornerstone Action, which kindly gave me permission to re-post here.)

New York’s governor ordered buildings to be illuminated in pink lights on January 22, in celebration of state law he had just signed eliminating most limitations on abortion. Legislators in Virginia and Vermont are ready to follow suit with radically anti-life policies.

Think it couldn’t happen in New Hampshire? The grim fact is that it already has. New Hampshire is one of the most abortion-friendly states in the country. Here are the facts.

How far into pregnancy are abortions permitted in New Hampshire?

  • Abortions are legal, unrestricted, and unregulated throughout all 40 weeks of pregnancy in New Hampshire.
  • As recently as 2017 and 2018, legislators rejected bills that would have provided protection for viable preborn children.

What laws in New Hampshire affect abortion now?

  • New Hampshire has a parental notification statute. When a minor seeks abortion, she needs to notify a parent or guardian, or else use a “judicial bypass” in which a judge determines she is mature enough to make her own decision. The law calls for notification, not consent.
  • New Hampshire bans the barbaric abortion method known as partial-birth abortion or dilation-&-extraction, in which a child is delivered partway before being killed. This ban was passed in 2012.
  • As of early 2019, New Hampshire policy limits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion.
  • New Hampshire adopted a fetal homicide statute in 2017, allowing prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against a person whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s will. While not an abortion law, it was bitterly opposed by abortion advocates.

How many abortions are performed in New Hampshire annually?

  • No one knows, and that includes state lawmakers. New Hampshire does not have an abortion statistics law, despite the fact that the federal Centers for Disease Control attempts to collect abortion data. Forty-seven other states manage to collect and report such data, while protecting the anonymity and privacy of individual women obtaining abortions.
  • New Hampshire public health officials have no reliable data on the age of women seeking abortion, the stage of pregnancy at which abortions are performed, and whether women are experiencing abortion complications.

How many doctors do abortions in New Hampshire?

  • No one knows, since public health authorities do not collect any data on abortions.
  • There is no requirement that abortion providers in New Hampshire have any medical training or certification whatsoever.

Do New Hampshire state public health authorities inspect abortion facilities?

  • No, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. From a May 19, 2013 report in the New Hampshire Sunday News: “Kris Neilsen, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, explained in an email that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood and the Concord Feminist Health Center are exempt from state licensing and inspection requirements because they are considered physician offices. Twenty-three health care providers such as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and dialysis centers are licensed by the state, but not abortion clinics. ‘In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic – the majority of abortions are done in doctors offices … and doctors’ offices are exempt from licensure under RSA 151:2 II,’ Neilsen said. ‘Because they are exempt, we have no jurisdiction over them, and neither does anyone else.’”

Who sets standards for abortion facilities?

  • The abortion providers themselves determine what standards to use. Since there is no law that providers have any medical training, those “standards” need not relate in any way to women’s health.

What’s the rate of post-abortion complications experienced by New Hampshire women?

  • No one knows, since lawmakers refuse to demand abortion statistics and public health officials decline to collect them. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” sums it up.

Does New Hampshire law protect children who survive attempted abortion?

  • No. Children who survive attempted abortion are not entitled to any more care than the abortionist wishes to provide. A bill to recognize a duty to care for such infants was defeated by the New Hampshire House in 2016.

Does New Hampshire law recognize the conscience rights of health care personnel who choose not to participate in abortion?

  • No. A bill to provide conscience protections was killed in the New Hampshire House in 2018. Health care professionals in New Hampshire can lose their jobs and be subject to professional sanctions for refusing to assist in abortions.

How did New Hampshire become such a haven for abortion providers?

  • In 1997, then-Governor (now U.S. Senator) Jeanne Shaheen signed a law repealing New Hampshire’s 19th-century anti-abortion laws. She did so knowing full well that no updated laws were in place. With a stroke of her pen, and with the cooperation of legislators, New Hampshire abortion regulation disappeared. So did concern for the health of women obtaining abortions. So did concern for preborn children, even moments away from birth.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help turn a culture of abortion into a culture that respects and nurtures life, especially in its most vulnerable stages.

  • Share the message: Knowledge is power, and many people don’t know the facts about abortion in New Hampshire.
  • Pray. Join with your faith community. A culture of prayer will lead to a culture of life.
  • Politicians bear a great deal of responsibility for New Hampshire’s abortion-friendly laws, but blaming Concord won’t help. What will help is electing representatives at all levels of government who respect the right to life, and who care about the health of pregnant women and their children. Vote for candidates who recognize that New Hampshire law relative to abortion must be changed.
  • Consider running for local or state office.
  • Work within your community to create and sustain life-affirming options for women and children at risk from abortion. Contact your local pro-life pregnancy care center to learn about practical ways you can help.

(The original version of this post contained an incorrect alternative term for partial-birth abortion. This version contains corrected information.)

Abortions Statistics Bill Rejected By Committee

A bill to require collection of public health statistics relative to abortion will go to the New Hampshire House with an “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) recommendation. The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee voted 12-8 along party lines to report the bill ITL.

The bill will be voted on by the full House as early as February 14. Unless the committee recommendation is overturned, New Hampshire will remain one of three states failing to report abortion data to the Centers for Disease Control.

N.H. House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee

Committee members voting “inexpedient to legislate,” all Democrat: Reps. Polly Campion (D-Etna), Gerri Cannon (D-Somersworth), Mary Freitas (D-Manchester), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), James MacKay (D-Concord), Richard Osborne (D-Campton), Jeffrey Salloway (D-Lee), Joe Schapiro (D-Keene), Kendall Snow (D-Manchester), Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth), Lucy Weber (D-Walpole), and Gary Woods (D-Bow).

Opposing the ITL motion were eight Republicans: Reps. Dennis Acton (R-Fremont), John Fothergill (R-Colebrook), Joseph Guthrie (R-Hampstead), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), Charles McMahon (R-Windham), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead), and Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont).

Rep. Osborne, speaking before the vote, told his colleagues, “All these things [New Hampshire abortion statistics] are already in the CDC.” He claimed to have found New Hampshire abortion information online. [Note: see comment below this post from one of Rep. Osborne’s colleagues, pointing out that Rep. Osborne later corrected his statement.]

Rep. Osborne’s claim is at variance with the latest Abortion Surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control. From that report:

  • “This report summarizes abortion data for 2015 that were provided voluntarily to CDC by the central health agencies of 49 reporting areas (the District of Columbia [DC]; New York City; and 47 states, [excluding California, Maryland, and New Hampshire]).” [page 2, emphasis added]
  • Page 5, “U.S. Totals,” emphasis added: “Among the 49 reporting areas that provided data for 2015, a total of 638,169 abortions were reported. All 49 of these areas provided data every year during 2006–2015. Excludes California, Maryland, and New Hampshire.”

N.H. House Kills Buffer Zone Repeal Bill

The New Hampshire House has voted “inexpedient to legislate” on a bill to repeal the state’s buffer zone law. The ITL motion passed on a vote of 228-141.

Roll call is here. Note that the motion was “inexpedient to legislate,” so a Yea vote was a vote to kill the repeal bill. A Yea vote was a vote in favor of keeping the buffer zone law.

Representatives Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Max Abramson (R-Seabrook), Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), and Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) spoke in favor of repeal. Rep. Abramson warned his colleagues about the constitutional defects of the law in light of the McCullen decision. Rep. Notter echoed that concern, saying, “The day the buffer zone is actually posted, I guarantee that litigation will ensue, costing us millions.”

Reps. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) and Sandra Keans (D-Rochester) defended the buffer zone law. Rep. Altschiller called it a “thoughtfully passed” measure to “remedy the harassment.” She then said that 8 murders, 17 attempted murders, and 42 bombings presumably related to abortion had occurred since Roe v. Wade. She did not mention that these numbers did not refer to New Hampshire.