State budget conferees restore abortion funding restriction

House and Senate conferees working on the New Hampshire state budget for 2022-23 have agreed to include a restriction on abortion funding, according to news reports. The compromise language adds a 24-week limit on abortions.

The funding restriction, originally passed by the House, was later rejected by the Senate Finance Committee before being restored to HB 2 by the full Senate. It would apply to state general funds awarded though contracts with the department of health and human services.

The language does not prevent state funds from going to abortion providers for non-abortion services, such as family planning programs.

The 24-week abortion limit was added to HB 2 by the Senate after HB 625 was tabled.

Here’s the official summary of the proposed budget language as it currently stands: “[This budget} Prohibits the distribution of state funds awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility for provision of abortion services, and prohibits a health care provider from performing an abortion if the gestational age of the fetus is at least 24 weeks.”

The provisions are part of HB 2, the “trailer bill” that goes along with the principal budget bill, HB 1. It is not unusual for the trailer bill include measures that for one reason or another failed to pass as free-standing bills.

Budget negotiations continue this week in conference committee. House and Senate will meet on June 24 to vote on the resulting budget. Once approved by both chambers, the budget will go to Governor Chris Sununu.

Sununu has expressed support for the language restricting abortion funding and late-term abortions.

Senate committee strips abortion funding language from budget bill

As reported by Adam Sexton of WMUR, the New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee has voted to remove proposed state budget language requiring family planning contractors to keep abortion work financially and physically separate from contractors’ other business.

The House language rejected by the Senate committee was reported in this blog last month. Its stated purpose was “[i]n order to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly.”

The House language was included in HB 2, the so-called “trailer bill” that is a companion measure to HB 1. Together, the bills will form the state budget for the biennium beginning July 1.

The disputed language is different from provisions included in past state budgets to prevent state funds from being used directly for elective abortions. Such provisions are similar to the Hyde Amendment in the federal Health and Human Services budget.

The Senate Finance Committee will eventually make a recommendation to the full Senate on HB 2, which is likely to contain over a hundred provisions applying to various budget areas.

House and Senate will eventually have to settle their differences before submitting a budget to Governor Chris Sununu by the end of June.

House-passed budget contains language to bar abortion funding

The New Hampshire House has passed a budget with language “to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly”. The proposed budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.

While New Hampshire has long protected taxpayers from most abortion funding (there are exceptions), the new House language calls for complete physical and financial separation of abortion from family planning. This would mean that an entity seeking a contract with the state to provide family planning services – say, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England – would not be eligible unless its abortion business were set up as a separate entity.

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House Finance subcommittee moves to protect taxpayers from subsidizing abortion providers

A subcommittee of the N.H. House Finance Committee voted 4-3 along party lines on March 22 to recommend that abortion providers receiving state funds for non-abortion work move their abortion business into a free-standing program. The vote came as part of the subcommittee’s work on the state budget for the upcoming biennium.

Next stop for the committee’s proposal is the full House Finance Committee.

Kevin Landrigan of the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on the subcommittee session chaired by Rep. Jess Edwards (R-Derry). “Edwards said for these providers ‘all money is fungible,’ and the amendment is meant to prevent these providers from mixing grant spending.”

Translation, as near as I can figure: if this provision winds up in the state budget – and that’s a BIG “if” – any health care provider that also provides abortions will have to create a separate legal and financial entity for its abortion business. Otherwise, the provider would not be eligible for state funding.

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N.H. House Judiciary life-issue hearings next week

Two bills to change New Hampshire’s policy of unrestricted abortion, along with bills to repeal the buffer zone law, bar public funding of abortion, and protect children born alive after attempted abortion, will be heard in the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee on February 9 and 10.

These measures respecting human life and conscience may be voted on by the committee at any time after the hearings, without a separately-scheduled session.

To me, some of these bills clearly show better legislative preparation than others. Some show more broad-based support than others. Read them for yourself – then act.

The committee will accept testimony remotely. There is no public access to the Legislative Office Building. You can sign in electronically anytime before the hearings to register your opinion. In an earlier post, I summarized the new testimony and sign-in procedures. Here’s a quick review, followed by details of the hearings and links to the bills.

How to weigh in

  • You can sign in on a bill before its hearing, even days before, so that committee members and staff have your opinion on record. No testimony is needed for this simple step. Signing in is easy. Share this link with like-minded friends: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx
  • You can email the Judiciary Committee with your written opinion and testimony on any or all of these bills, using a separate message for each bill. A message to HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us will reach all 21 committee members.
  • You can testify online during the hearings, using the sign-in procedure in advance and then joining the online Zoom videoconference the day of the hearing. Links are below, taken from the February 5 House Calendar. Note that there is a telephone option as well. These hearings are likely to be lengthy.
  • You can listen to the hearings without testifying, by listening via Zoom. The NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming channel on YouTube may be another option.
  • What you cannot do is go to Concord and have face-to-face contact with the committee members, which makes electronic communication vitally important.

What’s the “FN” attached to some bills?

“FN” stands for Fiscal Note, a reference to the bill’s potential cost. It is not essential to include FN when contacting a legislator. For example, HB 233 and HB 233-FN refer to the same bill.

Tuesday, February 9

Zoom log-in: join any of Tuesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/96805083773, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 968 0508 3773.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to restrict post-viability abortions

HB 622-FN: an act to protect nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. This bill would bar abortion of a viable fetus, except in cases of “a clear and present danger to the life or health of the mother.” Sponsors: Reps. Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Max Abramson (R-Seabrook), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead).

HB 625-FN: the Fetal Life Protection Act, barring abortions after the fetus reaches 24 weeks gestational age, with exceptions for medical emergencies. Sponsors: Reps. Beth Folsom (R-Wentworth), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (R-Derry), Maureen Mooney (R-Merrimack), Linda Gould (R-Bedford), Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Walter Stapleton, and Senators Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard) and Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead).

2 p.m.: buffer zone repeal

HB 430: the Sidewalk Free Speech Act, “repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility.” This one has as many official sponsors as a bill is allowed to list: ten reps, five senators. Perhaps with this fifth attempt, lawmakers will finally repeal the anti-First-Amendment “buffer zone” law passed in 2014 but never enforced.

Sponsors: Reps. Niki Kelsey (R-Bedford), Hershel Nunez (R-Pelham), Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), Linda Gould, Walter Stapleton, Maureen Mooney, Jeanine Notter, Mark Pearson, Vanessa Sheehan (R-Milford), Matt Simon (R-Littleton), and Sens. Denise Ricciardi (R-Bedford), Regina Birdsell, Gary Daniels (R-Milford), Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), and Kevin Avard (R-Nashua).

Wednesday, February 10

Zoom log-in: join any of Wednesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/91322816360, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 913 2281 6360.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to bar public funding of abortions

HB 434: the No Public Funds for Abortion Act. This one does what looks like a thorough job of ruling out avenues for state-level taxpayer funding of abortion, with exceptions for “abortion performed when the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” Sponsors: Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Maureen Mooney, Kim Rice (R-Hudson), Jim Creighton (R-Antrim), Matt Simon, Mark Pearson, Linda Gould, Debra DeSimone (R-Atkinson), Bill King (R-Milford), Diane Pauer (R-Brookline), and Senators Gary Daniels, Denise Ricciardi, and Ruth Ward.

HB 596-FN: the Life Appropriation Act, barring state funding of “convenience” abortions, including funding to agencies that perform such abortions, even if potential funding is for a non-abortion purpose. The bill would also establish a Foster Care and Adoption Initiative Fund. Sponsor: Rep. Fred Plett (R-Goffstown).

1 p.m.: born-alive infant protection

HB 233-FN: the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. “Any born alive infant, including one born in the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” Sponsors: Reps. Jordan Ulery (R-Hudson) and Walter Stapleton.

Share this information

The committee needs to get public comment before the hearings. Every sign-in counts, even without testimony attached. The tallies are going to be news, watched not only by committee members and the customary observers, but also – unless I miss my guess – by Governor Sununu.

According to an email from its “director of advocacy,” the New Hampshire Medical Society will be opposing all of these measures. That includes buffer zone repeal, which has no bearing on abortion itself and is purely a First Amendment issue. Pro-life medical professionals, take note. The Society will speak up. Will you?

Post header image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.