NH House says no to licensing, maybe to stats, & “let’s change the subject” to Griffin’s Law

This week’s two-day floor session in the New Hampshire House yielded votes on three life-issue bills. Results: mixed. 

HB 1501, licensing & inspection of abortion facilities

The New Hampshire House voted to reject a bill that would have imposed publicly-accountable state oversight on abortion facilities. The same House voted a day earlier to keep in place a law forbidding restaurants from serving sugar in open bowls. Only packets will do. It’s a matter of public health and safety.

Preventing another Gosnell: nope.
Protecting women from sugar bowls: yup.

The vote to kill the bill was 211-86. Rep. Thomas Sherman, who is a physician and who spoke for the committee that unanimously recommended killing the bill, seemed pained that anyone would suggest that people who do abortions are unlicensed. Other representatives pointed out that the bill addresses requirements for facilities, not just for abortion providers. Rep. Warren Groen went a step further and asked Rep. Sherman how he knew that everyone doing abortions in New Hampshire is licensed, since New Hampshire does not monitor abortions beyond accepting voluntary reports from providers. Rep. Sherman can’t know, of course, under current law.

Text of HB 1501

Roll call on HB 1501 (note that the motion was “inexpedient to legislate,” so a “yea” vote was to kill the bill)

And just for good measure, here’s the link to the sugar-bowl vote, which was actually a vote to repeal sugar packet requirements. The motion was Inexpedient to Legislate, so “yea” meant kill the bill.

HB 1502, collection of abortion statistics

Is “interim study” a way to kill a bill, or is it a way to learn more? It all depends on the committee that handles the bill. If the members of the House Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee are to be believed, today’s vote by the House to refer HB 1502 to interim study just might be a step in the right direction.

The committee hearing and subsequent discussion on collecting abortion statistics yielded a somewhat surprising point of agreement among conflicting parties: if there’s a way to collect and publish aggregate or summarized data, New Hampshire might be ready to look at abortion statistics. The committee ultimately voted unanimously for interim study, noting that members were committed to pursuing the matter (see “Putting down a marker for women’s health”). Today in the floor debate, committee chair Rep. James MacKay and vice-chair Rep. Laurie Harding reiterated that.

So over the objections of the pro-life sponsors of the original bill who wanted a decisive move to pass the it, the House voted 188-80 for interim study. This will be something to watch over the next few months.

Text of HB 1502

Roll call on HB 1502 (“yea” was a vote in favor of Interim Study)

HB 1503, Griffin’s Law, fetal homicide

The House accepted the Criminal Justice committee’s recommendation to gut Rep. Leon Rideout’s HB 1503 (see “When chivalry isn’t enough”).  It is now a bill calling for enhanced penalties when there is a conviction for a felony against a pregnant woman. As amended, it is not a fetal homicide bill and it does not address the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s concerns from the Lamy case.

Opponents of fetal homicide legislation used the same excuse successfully employed by abortion advocates in 2012: that the legislation would somehow interfere with treatments for infertility. Rep. Lucy Weber referred to a letter sent to all of the state legislators by medical professionals from Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics, warning of this effect. Weber was unable to respond when asked why infertility treatments are still perfectly legal in the thirty-eight states that have fetal homicide legislation.

I was seated near the extended family of Griffin Donald Kenison today. Each member of the family knew perfectly well what the amended language meant for the bill. Their response? They’ll be back when the Senate takes up the bill. The family isn’t done with this. (I’ll have a separate post about this later.)

This is a link to the bill’s general information page, on which you’ll find links to the text and to the roll calls. There were three roll call votes: first, to accept the committee amendment (passed 176-116); second, an amendment by Rep. Rideout attempting to address the concern’s of the bill’s opponents (failed, 114-170), and finally to pass the bill as amended (243-42).

A vote on HB 1504, Rep. J.R. Hoell’s “All People Created Equal Act,” was put off until next week.

Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, activist, hiker.