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

Representatives Hall, State House, Concord NH

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.


Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, pro-life activist, hiker.