Aftermath: roll calls of selected N.H. House votes

Among hundreds of bills disposed of thus far this year by the New Hampshire House, ten have touched on abortion and one on First Amendment rights outside abortion facilities. All eleven of those bills had roll calls.

Here’s a PDF document I’ve prepared, listing all eleven votes. To view it on your own device where you can enlarge the document, click on the “download” link below the image.  (Alternatively, depending on your browser, you may see a box in the upper right corner of the image that will allow you to click for a pop-up view.) See the provisos below, which you need to take into consideration as you view the data.

Selected NH House votes, 2016

You can confirm these and other roll call votes on the legislative dashboard of the New Hampshire legislative web page.  You can identify your own district’s representatives on that site as well.

A few provisos

First, while this is an advocacy blog, it is not an advocacy PAC. Second, the interpretation of the votes is my own and is admittedly subjective. I use an open circle to designate what I see in broad terms as a pro-life vote and an “x” to indicate the opposite. Each column is headed with a brief explanation of the bill and the motion that received a roll call. You may decide that the inclusion of a bill with exceptions is inappropriate, but bear with me. I’ll explain in the notes below why I listed that bill.

Third, be aware that these votes occurred on only two session days, so someone with an excused absence on (for example) March 9 would naturally miss many of the votes. Fourth, these eleven bills don’t cover the full spectrum of right-to-life issues – no death penalty votes here, for example, since the House killed death penalty expansion this year on a voice vote. Finally, you won’t find a “score” for any representative on the sheet.

How many of these bills survived to move on to the Senate?

Only one, repeal of the buffer zone (HB 1570), made it past the House.

What’s with all the “not voting” notes?

“Not voting” means that the representative did not have an excused absence for the day or half-day as reported to the House clerk in advance. The only way to confirm why your reps missed one or more votes is to ask them. 

Yes, some reps make a point of bailing out when abortion is the issue. There are other reasons for missing votes, though. The March 9 bills, for example, were voted on between 5 and 8 p.m. at the end of a session that began at 9 a.m. Late in the day, responsibilities to families or employment (remember that reps earn only $100 per year for their service) can prompt representatives to leave the State House.

Did a rape-and-incest exception gain or lose any votes?

There were three bills to restrict mid- and late-term abortions. One of them, HB 1328, would have instituted a 20-week limit with an exception for abortions following rape or incest. The other bills would have limited abortions at viability (HB 1625) and at the point where the preborn child can feel pain (HB 1636). Was there any tactical advantage to including exceptions in one of the bills?

Not that I could see. Only seven representatives voted FOR the bill with exceptions and AGAINST the other two mid- and late-term bills. On the other hand, twelve representatives did the opposite, opposing the exceptions bill while supporting the HB 1625 and HB 1636.

Privacy amendment: more information needed

More than a dozen representatives with strong pro-life records, some extending back years, voted in favor of CACR 22, the proposed constitutional amendment on privacy. That earned an “x” from me. Shortly before the vote, attorneys with national experience warned that such amendments had been used in other states to expand abortion and overturn existing regulations. I and others reported our concern.

Before any such amendment comes back – and you can bet that it will, in a future session – written documentation of the misuse of privacy amendments in other states needs to be in the hands of legislators. A majority of representatives supported the amendment, but a three-fifths vote was necessary for passage.

First Amendment protection: a narrow victory

The Senate will get the buffer zone repeal bill after the House passed it 160-152. That’s too close for comfort. Sixty representatives were “not voting” on that one. Support for First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses shouldn’t depend on who shows up in Representatives Hall on a given day.

Genetic abnormality as a reason for abortion: a troubling vote

HB 1623, prohibiting abortion for reasons of fetal genetic abnormality, got a lopsided thumbs-down. Two hundred twenty-four reps voted to kill the bill. Anyone concerned about the rights of disabled human beings ought to give that vote some thought.

Notable consistency

At high risk of annoying some reps who might have missed votes for a good reason or who chose to support CACR 22, I think it’s worth noting who was present for all eleven votes, and who from my point of view voted soundly on each one.  As it happens, all are Republicans. (Anyone looking for straight “x”s can peruse the PDF and will find all Democrats with one exception: the GOP rep from Pelham who once stated in committee that handing a woman a pamphlet could be an act of violence.)

Thumbs up to these state representatives:

  • Belknap County: Brian Gallagher, Shari LeBreche.
  • Carroll County: Frank McCarthy, Glenn Cordelli, Bill Nelson.
  • Grafton County: Eric Johnson, Paul Ingbretson, Duane Brown.
  • Hillsborough County: Rick Christie, Linda Gould, Victoria Sullivan, Jeanine Notter, Eric Eastman, Carl Seidel, Edith Hogan, Jordan Ulery.
  • Merrimack County: J.R. Hoell.
  • Rockingham County: Bruce Hodgdon, James Spillane, Lawrence “Mike” Kappler, William Gannon, Chris True, Al Baldasaro, David Bates, John Sytek, Jeffrey Harris, Dan Itse, Dennis Green.
  • Strafford County: Leonard Turcotte, Warren Groen, Thomas Kaczynski Jr.

 

 

A sobering day in the N.H. House

That was quite a ride the New Hampshire House gave us yesterday, swerving into a figurative ditch time and again while getting back on track just often enough to let me catch my breath. And all this after 5 p.m.! That’s how long it took for the Judiciary committee bills to come up for a vote. My long-suffering husband and son endured dinner with the livestream of the House session droning in the background.

And what was the upshot of all of it?

  • A buffer zone repeal bill passed very narrowly, and now goes to the Senate where the buffer zone law originated.
  • A “right to privacy” constitutional amendment got a majority of votes, but lost because it didn’t get the necessary three-fifths required for a constitutional amendment to advance. Similar amendments in other states have been used to block pro-life legislation, whether sponsors intended that or not.
  • Three bills to limit mid- and late-term abortions were killed. One of them was killed without debate. The debates on the other two made clear that while none of them will come out and say so, abortion supporters DO want to overturn Roe, in a manner quite different from what one might expect. Read on for more about this.
  • Another no-debate quickie: a proposal to treat abortion facilities like ambulatory care facilities was killed.
  • A proposal to keep all state funds, personnel and facilities away from abortion providers was killed.
  • A bill to criminalize the sexual trafficking of minors passed.

I will link to the roll calls in a later post. You can find them yourself at the legislative web site. Remember that “yes” isn’t necessarily a pro-life vote; if the motion is ITL (inexpedient to legislate), a “yes” vote is a vote to kill the bill. Hats off to the legislators who made sure roll calls took place, despite any annoyance the Speaker of the House might have been feeling.

This is a lengthy post. What can I say? The House inspires me.

Rep. Glenn Cordelli
Rep. Glenn Cordelli

Before I go any further, let me salute Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), whose speech in favor of a ban on eugenic abortion was the most moving and powerful of all the pro-life appeals in the House yesterday. I wish I’d recorded it. His strong appeal to his colleagues’ better natures, his plea that they reject discrimination against preborn children with genetic abnormalities, was calm and clear. It is a sharp jolt to know that the House voted inexpedient to legislate on the measure, 224-88, the most lopsided anti-life vote of the day.

A glimpse at a post-Roe legislative landscape

Opponents of limits on late-term abortion argued forcefully for their colleagues to ignore Roe v. Wade, without saying so directly, and possibly without realizing it.

Emerging from Justice Harry Blackmun’s twisted reasoning in Roe v. Wade was a feeble nod in the direction of the preborn child – “the potentiality of human life,” in the Justice’s words – that allowed even in 1973 the possibility of limiting late-term abortion.

“We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a nonresident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct…and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes ‘compelling.’…With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability….State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications.” (Roe v. Wade, 420 U.S. 113 (1973), pp. 162 et seq.)


What one abortion advocate after another said on the New Hampshire House floor yesterday was that a woman’s right to abort her child is paramount throughout pregnancy. No limits are tolerable. Forget this viability business. As Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene) said during the debate on HB 1623, the bill to bar abortions performed on the grounds of genetic problems, “This is about the autonomy of women.”

For years, pro-lifers have seen the overturning of Roe as a much-desired goal. In the 1970s, it seemed that ditching Roe would overturn legal abortion nationwide. Later, in the ’80s and ’90s, it became clear that overturning Roe would simply send abortion back to the states, where pro-life legislation was being passed piecemeal. That’s where we think we are now.

We’re wrong.

What if Roe is overturned not by a Court that acknowledges the right to life at every stage of development, but a Court that agrees with Rep. Phillips that this is all about women’s autonomy at every stage of pregnancy and that viability is therefore irrelevant?

Think it can’t happen? Repeat after me: Ginsburg. Sotomayor. Kagan. Breyer. The Court’s biggest question mark (which way will he jump next?), Kennedy.

That’s five, folks. With the right case, Roe will be gone, and in its wake will be not a return to the states, but an affirmation that abortion is purely what Rep. Phillips said it is, a matter of autonomy. Viability will be irrelevant under law nationwide and for generations.

The New Hampshire House gave us a look at that yesterday: no abortion regulation or restriction on the basis of fetal viability. No limit or oversight on eugenic abortion. No restriction on the basis of fetal pain.

Don’t blame it all on Democrats. It took some Republicans to kill these bills.

Buffer zone repeal bill approved, barely

The vote on buffer zone repeal was 160-152. It doesn’t get much closer. HB 1570 now goes to the Senate where a 12-12 tie is likely.

Rep. Gary Hopper had the presence of mind to call for reconsideration – in this case, a parliamentary move. He asked for reconsideration and asked his colleagues to vote No. Failure of a reconsideration motion keeps a bill from being brought up again. Smart move.

The ongoing mischaracterization of the buffer zone law is a running sore. Rep. Janet Wall (D-Durham): “This bill is not about behaviors but about allowing space…The Massachusetts law [that was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court] was very definite; the New Hampshire law allows flexibility…Wait to see what the federal court will do.”

The federal court has already done something: prevented enforcement of the law. The state’s determination to forestall the inevitable – that is, overturning the law, so obviously inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley decision – is one reason the New Hampshire case has stalled.

The “flexibility” of the New Hampshire law – even in committee, Rep. Wall was a huge fan of the “up-to-25-feet” provision in the original law – comes from the fact that the law delegates to abortion providers the right to determine the size, precise location, and enforcement hours of any “buffer zone.” In other words, a private entity is granted the right to determine when the public may occupy public space.

In addition, the reason the Massachusetts law was overturned had nothing whatsoever to do with “definite” things like the size of the zone. It was a First Amendment decision, pure and simple. I suspect Rep. Wall knows that; she’s an intelligent woman.

Rep. Frank Heffron (D-Exeter) continued the mischaracterization. The buffer zone law “exists to protect women from harassment and abuse.” Actually, anti-harassment laws exist for that purpose, as do laws against trespassing and disorderly conduct – none of which have needed to be used in recent years outside New Hampshire abortion facilities, if law enforcement records are accurate.

Rep. Heffron said the need for the buffer zone was expressed in the “findings” in the buffer zone law, including “fear and intimidation” experienced by women entering abortion facilities. He couldn’t refer to documented criminal charges against any recent peaceful pro-life witness in New Hampshire because there haven’t been any. He couldn’t explain how a violent assailant would be any less a threat to women entering a facility than to women praying outside it, or how a buffer zone law would be useful in such an instance.

Like Rep. Wall, he claimed that the New Hampshire law isn’t really like the old Massachusetts law. Tell it to the federal judge who issued an injunction against our law.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper
Rep. Kurt Wuelper

It took Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) to bring his colleagues back to the point. “This [buffer zone] law is intended strictly to restrict rights of citizens on public property. It seeks to restrict the right to speak.” His argument prevailed, all too narrowly. On to the Senate.

Rep. Groen is gavelled twice

The “buying, selling, and experimenting on unborn infants or bodily remains resulting from abortion” would have been banned by HB 1663. The House killed the bill on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion, 155-122.

Might’ve been instructive to have been running the Center for Medical Progress videos on the State House plaza during that vote, but never mind.

Rep. Linda Kenison (D-Concord) made the claim “there is no voluntary tissue donation in New Hampshire.” Really? Anywhere? That would be a relief of sorts. Documentation would be nice. “This is a strategy to restrict a woman’s access.” How? Would an abortion provider refuse to do a procedure on a woman who doesn’t want her child’s remains bought and sold? Now that would be a story.

Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)
Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)

The Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson), apparently had his gavel ready when Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) rose to speak in favor of HB 1663. Groen began to speak about the parallels between modern-day fetal tissue trafficking and the medical excesses of the Nazi regime. Down came the gavel with a sharp rap. “We’re not dealing with Naziism today.” After a pause, Groen resumed, mentioning Robert Jay Lifton’s book The Nazi Doctors (on my bookshelf nearby as I write this, as it happens). Gavelled again. Another pause. Rep. Groen resumed, leaving the Nazis out of it.

Some of the reps who had no qualms about killing the mid- and late-term abortion bans were apparently given pause by this bill. It was killed, but on a closer vote than I expected: inexpedient to legislate, 155-122.

Public funds for abortion counseling: yes, you’re paying

HB 1684 labored under the handicap of coming near the end of an eleven-hour session day in a roomful of legislators who just wanted to go home. The bill would have prohibited the use of public funds, employees, and facilities in assisting or performing abortion. It also would have prohibited public employees within the scope of their employment from counseling or encouraging a woman to get an abortion not necessary to save the woman’s life, and it would have required a second opinion before an abortion could be performed on a woman whose life was deemed to be in danger

Nope, said Rep. Charlene Takesian (R-Pelham), who spoke against the bill. She sounded particularly exercised that a state employee would be prohibited from telling (for example) a pregnant jail inmate about all her options. They’re under no such prohibition now, you see.

An ought-to-pass motion failed on a roll call vote, 131-146, and then “inexpedient to legislate” passed on a loud voice vote which over the live stream sounded mighty close.

Privacy amendment

Republican Reps. Neal Kurk of Weare and Claire Rouillard of Goffstown made strong pitches for CACR 22. Both of them rejected any suggestion that the measure was about abortion. Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) questioned Kurk closely on that point, mentioning the trouble that other states have had with privacy amendments and pro-life legislation. Kurk dismissed the concern out of hand, saying he had confidence in the good sense of New Hampshire courts.

Fortunately, that “good sense” won’t be tested on this measure, which attracted a majority ought-to-pass vote but not the three-fifths it required.

Human trafficking bill passes

I’ll close with good news: HB 1628 passed, making it a class B felony to pay to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18. Governor Hassan issued a statement following the vote: “In 2014, we passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen protections for human trafficking victims, and this measure builds on those efforts by establishing enhanced penalties for human trafficking of minors. I thank the House for passing this common-sense legislation, and I encourage the Senate to continue its efforts in the fight against this deplorable crime.”

For once, I agree with the Governor on what constitutes common-sense legislation.

 

House committee ties 8-8 on abortion funding bill; gives thumbs down to abortion facility licensing

A measure to prohibit the use of public funds, employees and facilities in assisting or performing abortions will go to the New Hampshire House floor this week without recommendation after the Judiciary Committee tied 8-8 on HB 1684.


The House will convene on March 8 and 9 to deal with an extensive calendar including bills on buffer zone repeal and restrictions on mid- and late-term abortions, as well as bills described below on abortion facility licensing, human trafficking, abortion-inducing drugs, and commercialization of the remains of aborted children.

“Insulate taxpayers who object to having to fund a procedure they do not condone”

The funding bill has seven sponsors, led by Rep. J.R. Hoell. If passed, it would go into effect in 2017.

Judiciary Committee member Rep. Mark McLean wrote a statement for publication in the House calendar expressing support for an Ought to Pass motion on HB 1684. “While the right to an abortion is guaranteed following the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, the current public disagreement on the matter has led to the barring of federal and, in many cases, state funds to pay for abortion. These restrictions on funding have been held up as constitutional for almost 40 years. New Hampshire, like 32 other states, follows the federal standard established by the current version of the Hyde Amendment and bans the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions except in limited cases. This bill expands the funding ban from Medicaid to all public funds and it eliminates the involvement of state employees and facilities in abortion except in the case of preserving the life of the mother. Abortions are currently performed in over a dozen facilities throughout the state, all of which are private hospitals or clinics. As a result of this fact, a large portion of the committee felt that this bill would not limit a woman’s access to abortion, but that it would insulate taxpayers who object to having to fund a procedure they do not condone.”

Against the bill: “would prevent public employees from fulfilling their responsibilities”

Rep. Charlene Takesian provided a statement in favor of ruling the bill Inexpedient to Legislate, warning that the state would lose funds for “cancer screenings” if taxpayers were to divest from the abortion industry. “This bill would restrict the use of public funds for abortion when in fact the use of public funds for abortion is already limited to very rare and narrow circumstances. It also would disqualify New Hampshire from receiving nearly $750,000 per year in federal family planning funds and funds for preventive care like cancer screenings, access to birth control and annual well-woman exams. This bill would result in the defunding of family planning providers such as community health centers who provide critical and important care that actually reduces unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. It also would prevent public employees from fulfilling their responsibilities when working with teens in foster care or female inmates, all who may need information about pregnancy options and providing such information or support would be outlawed under this bill.”

Abortion facility licensing gets negative report, despite committee member plea that “women deserve the protection that clinic licensing would provide”

A bill to require licensing of abortion facilities has a bipartisan panel of ten sponsors including two state senators. Chief sponsor of HB 1399 is Rep. Kathleen Souza.

The Judiciary Committee voted 14-5 to send the bill to the full House with an Inexpedient to Legislate report. Rep. Larry Phillips wrote on behalf of the majority: “There are procedures done in unlicensed physician’s offices that are not as safe as abortions. Although facilities may not be licensed, medical professionals who work in them, including abortion clinics, are.”

Rep. Kurt Wuelper wrote for the committee minority, mindful of documented deaths of women in other states at abortion facilities. “Women across our country have died because of inadequate facilities at abortion clinics. Women have died because of blocked exit doors, hallways not wide enough for emergency equipment and other difficulties with the physical facilities. This bill left the Department of Health and Human Services to decide what requirements would be. We think New Hampshire women deserve the protection that clinic licensing would provide.”

Unanimous “ought to pass” for bill against sex trafficking of minors

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee voted 12-0 on an Ought to Pass motion for HB 1628, which would make it a crime for a person to pay to engage in sexual contact with a person under the age of 18. It also would makes it illegal to observe a sexually explicit performance involving a person under the age of 18. Rep. Brian Gallagher is the lead sponsor; the bill has five sponsors altogether.

HHS Committee skeptical of heeding FDA protocols for abortion drug use

HB 1662, an abortion-inducing-drug safety act, goes to the House floor with a 16-1 Inexpedient to Legislate vote from the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee. Rep. Thomas Sherman wrote for the majority. “Without demonstrating a compelling need, this bill would set several precedents in addressing abortion including requiring use of FDA guidelines rather than the medical standard of practice, requiring admitting privileges for an outpatient procedure and requiring a contract with her physician to handle procedure complications. Furthermore, it would apply criminal penalties for activities under the jurisdiction of the Board of Medicine.”


The bill’s eight sponsors including lead sponsor Rep. Kurt Wuelper were responding to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England advertising chemical abortion up to 63 days into pregnancy, when FDA protocols recommend a maximum of 42 days. The text of HB 1662 cites FDA recommendations for administration of the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone, along with an FDA report about “adverse events” occurring to women taking the drug.

New Hampshire Right to Life sought for several years under a Right to Know request to find out if PPNNE, a state contractor, was properly licensed by the state of New Hampshire to distribute abortion-inducing drugs. A Strafford County judge ruled last year that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services should not have delayed responding to the RTK request. At that time Jane Cormier of NHRTL said, “New Hampshire DHHS broke the law when it did not enforce a simple right to know request. By doing so, they gave Planned Parenthood the ability to redact important information regarding RU-486 protocols, which Planned Parenthood was legally required to fully disclose.”

10-8 “inexpedient to legislate” vote on bill to bar trafficking in fetal remains

The Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 to recommend that the full House kill HB 1663,  prohibiting buying, selling, and experimenting on unborn infants or bodily remains resulting from abortion.

In the wake of the Center for Medical Progress videos, Rep. Kathleen Souza had no trouble finding nine other legislators to co-sponsor the bill. Clearly, other legislators were untroubled by the CMP revelations.

Rep. Linda Kenison in her majority report took issue with the bill’s title, which she called “misleading.” “The true impact of this bill would be to ban the voluntary donation of fetal tissues by abortion patients and to ban any fetal tissue research taking place in this state. The committee heard no evidence that the sale of fetal tissue was occurring in New Hampshire. In fact, we heard testimony to the contrary. Fetal tissue research has the great potential to continue to advance clinical knowledge and treatment options for life-threatening and chronic diseases. The majority of the committee feels that voluntary fetal tissue donation should remain an option for women.”

Unfortunately, no minority report was provided in time to meet the deadline for the House calendar.

The House will convene March 9 at 9 a.m. and is likely to meet on March 10 as well. The sessions will be livestreamed via the House web site.

 

Uncertain future for 4 N.H. bills limiting mid-term & late-term abortions

In New Hampshire, abortion is legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The House will vote on four bills next week that attempt to change that. None is likely to pass, coming before the same legislative body that recently rejected a bill to protect children born alive after attempted abortion.

The bills, and the recommendations from the House Judiciary Committee:

  • HB 1328, limiting pregnancy terminations to pregnancies of 20 weeks or less. Committee vote: 11-9 for “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL).
  • HB 1623-FN, prohibiting an abortion based on genetic abnormalities. Committee vote: 14-5 ITL.
  • HB 1625-FN, relative to banning abortion after viability. Committee vote: ought to pass (OTP) with amendment, 9-8.
  • HB 1636-FN, prohibiting abortions once an unborn child can feel pain. The bill will go to the full House without recommendation, after the committee tied 9-9 on an OTP motion.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. on March 9, and  will probably meet on March 10 as well due to the heavy load of bills awaiting action.


From the House Calendar: the committee reports on each bill

These reports are from House Calendar #14, beginning on page 58. These summaries, called “blurbs,” are the only information some reps will have before voting on these bills, unless they hear from constituents. Any reference to abortion statistics in these reports is debatable, since New Hampshire does not mandate abortion reporting. Worth noting: Rep. Hagan, who wrote the report supporting HB 1328, is a physician.

HB 1328, restricting post-20-week abortions

Rep. Timothy Horrigan for the Majority of Judiciary, Inexpedient to Legislate: This bill as introduced would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It would have eliminated the option for New Hampshire women to legally terminate a pregnancy after the middle of the second trimester. This represents unwarranted government interference with women’s reproductive decisions and with the practice of medicine. There are also numerous legal and medical flaws with this bill. It threatens women’s health by banning abortion even when serious medical conditions jeopardize a woman’s health. While the bill does have very narrow exceptions, they are inadequate to protect women’s health and safety. For example, women with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and epilepsy or other seizure disorders may face dangerous complications at or past week 20 that can put their health in serious jeopardy. Abortion after 20 weeks in pregnancy is extremely rare: only one percent of women have abortions after 20 weeks. When it does happen, it is typically because of a heartbreaking and
tragic situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available. These very often involve rare, severe fetal anomalies which are not detectable before 20 weeks.

Rep. Joseph Hagan for the Minority of Judiciary, Ought to Pass: Roe v. Wade stated that subsequent to viability, the state, in promoting its interest in human life, may, if it chooses, regulate and even proscribe (ban) abortion. This bill would ban abortions after viability except when life and health of the mother is at risk or condition of the fetus demands removal for the uterus. Over the last decade, according to the Gallup Poll, greater than 80% of the American people agree that abortion should be banned after viability. This bill is constitutional, compassionate and supported by the majority of the American people.

HB 1623, prohibiting abortion for genetic abnormalities

Rep. Paul Berch for the Majority of Judiciary, Inexpedient to Legislate: This bill seeks to ban abortions based upon prenatal genetic testing. The committee understood the difficult decisions when women and their partners are confronted with a prenatal diagnosis of serious genetic defects. Understanding that women make different decisions based upon their own values, abilities and wisdom, the bipartisan majority of the committee felt it was the right of New Hampshire women to make these difficult decisions themselves, in consultation with medical professionals, rather than by politicians. By making doctors into criminals in certain circumstances, there was a concern that women would be reluctant to have full and candid conversations, jeopardizing doctor-patient relationships. The committee felt that some of the provisions of this bill were of doubtful constitutionality, and other provisions would not work in real life circumstances.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Minority of Judiciary, Ought to Pass: The minority believes that a baby should not be aborted just because she has a genetic marker for an inherited abnormality. Children who carry markers for Down syndrome should be allowed to grow and become the person they can, not killed by abortion as roughly 90% of those so diagnosed are today. We believe every child has the inalienable right to life and aborting them because of a genetic screening is the ultimate discrimination and should be illegal.

HB 1625, ban on post-viability abortions

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Majority of Judiciary, Ought to Pass with Amendment: This bill as amended prohibits abortions on babies after viability, except when necessary to save the life of the mother or to protect her from “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of major bodily function.” This language has been vetted through the US Supreme Court and has been in effect in other states for many years. Ever since Roe v. Wade was decided, states have been allowed to prohibit these late term abortions, and at least 17 other states already do. The majority believes that babies who can live outside the mother’s womb should be given every opportunity to do so. This bill takes great care to protect the mother’s well-being and, in case of criminal proceedings, her anonymity, while doing all we can to give babies the chance to live the lives of which they are capable.

Rep. David Woodbury for the Minority of Judiciary, Inexpedient to Legislate: This bill, as amended, seeks to limit and criminalize post-viability abortion, notwithstanding that such abortions are not performed in this state, at least presently. The main defects in this bill are that a second physician’s opinion must be obtained if such an abortion is to be performed to protect the life or health of the mother. Such second physician may not be available or willing, with tragic results to mother or child. Secondly, there are onerous and intrusive records to be kept for no discernable reason. Rather than legislate the practice of medicine, it is better to leave the practice of medicine to those best able to do it.

HB 1636, the pain-capable act (tie vote, headed to House floor without recommendation)

Statement in support of Ought to Pass, by Rep. Kurt Wuelper:
This bill prohibits abortions after the child can feel pain. Per the US Supreme Court, states may regulate procedures when the medical community is in doubt as they are regarding when the pre-born can feel pain. Given the possibility that babies could suffer severe pain at this stage of life we believe the state should err on the side of protecting them from it. Knowing that anesthesia is common in surgery performed on babies in the womb, we believe that those babies who might experience pain even more than born people should be protected from abortion. Since medical research has indicated that babies may feel pain as early as 20 weeks of age, this bill prohibits abortions after that age. Despite the fact similar laws in the Ninth Circuit have been ruled unconstitutional, we believe that the US Supreme Court might accept a new standard, such as this one, for when states can prohibit abortion if a federal appeals court should do so.

Statement in support of Inexpedient to Legislate, by Rep. Paul Berch: This bill seeks to ban abortions at or after 20 weeks except in the case of a medical emergency. It seeks to justify this restriction based upon a claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point in time, a belief disputed by many in the medical profession. The committee heard testimony that this bill is identical in all important respects to similar laws that have been held to be unconstitutional, including a decision by the United States Supreme Court on January 13, 2014 not to lift a block imposed by the Ninth Circuit of a similar law. Not only did the Supreme Court refuse to allow this kind of statute to be enforced, it also refused to reconsider Roe v. Wade and similar decisions post-Wade requiring “viability” and not gestational age to be the only critical factor in determining constitutionality of this kind of legislation. Other federal and state courts have similarly struck down 20 week bans. Testimony was also received that this bill’s reporting requirements impermissibly invade the privacy rights of women; that the health exception as drafted has constitutional issues; and that women faced with the serious and often dangerous complications of late term problems need the best health care possible from their medical providers.

The March 9 House session will be livestreamed. 

Update: still waiting on that stats bill

Two years ago today, I took note of a remark by a New Hampshire state representative expressing optimism over the prospects for passage of a bill to require collection of abortion statistics. (See “Putting Down a Marker for Women’s Health“, 3/3/14.) How’s that going?

We’re still waiting – but a stats bill is very much alive, awaiting Senate action.

stats history

The bill that was under consideration two years ago morphed into a study committee that met during the summer and fall of 2014. The committee’s findings led to HB 629 being introduced in January 2015. After months of yet more study, the House approved HB 629 on a voice vote on January 6.

The final House committee report on HB 629 was brief:  “As amended, this bill provides statistical information that brings New Hampshire in line with 48 other states. The committee took care to be sure the identity of the patient is confidential and follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. All stakeholders agreed to the final version of the bill.”

Next stop: the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. No hearing date has been set.

Will this be the year that New Hampshire finally joins most of its sister states in tracking abortions?  Stay tuned. I hope that the next time the anniversary of the “Putting Down a Marker” post rolls around,  the only thing I’ll need to write is “done.”