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.

Life-issue bills: NH Senate to vote on committee recommendations this week

The New Hampshire Senate will meet Thursday, May 27 at 10 a.m. to consider Judiciary Committee recommendations on two life-issue bills.

HB 625, Fetal Life Protection Act

The Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 along party lines (GOP majority) to recommend Ought to Pass with Amendment on HB 625, concerning late-term abortions.

The committee – including Sen. William Gannon – did not recommend adding an exception for eugenic abortion. (See this blog’s earlier report on the bill.) Cornerstone Action, which favors HB 625, posted a report worth reading in full, outlining the committee’s actions and giving a call to action.

From the Cornerstone message: Contact your Senator now and ask him or her to support a floor amendment adopting—at minimum—the severability and ‘physician requirement’ sections of the Birdsell amendment. These changes are critical to protecting the bill [HB 625], both in court and against a possible veto.

HB 233, Born-Alive Infant Protection

A born-alive infant protection bill will not pass the year, with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to re-refer HB 233.

Re-referral is the Senate’s version of what the House calls “retaining” a bill. The procedure keeps a bill in committee for the remainder of the calendar year, preventing a full-Senate vote until 2022.

The Senate’s May 27 session will be streamed online at http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00286/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/20210527/-1. This link will not be live until the session begins.

No Senate votes yet on 2021 life-issue bills

Since committee hearings on March 30, the New Hampshire Senate has not yet scheduled votes on bills regarding born-alive protections (HB 233) and a 24-week limit to abortion (HB 625).

GOP Senator calls restriction on eugenic abortion “a bridge too far”

HB 625 met resistance at the March 30 Senate Judiciary hearing from a Republican senator. Sen. William Gannon (R-Sandown) noted that the bill contains no exception for preborn children diagnosed with “severely fatal abnormalities.”

Following testimony in favor of HB 625 by one of its co-sponsors, Sen. Gannon challenged him. “I have a problem – it’s a bridge too far without it for me, sir. You don’t have any exception for severely fatal abnormalities which I think would be cruel to a mother and father in the situation.”

Video of the hearing is on YouTube, with Sen. Gannon’s question at time stamp 2:40:00.

[Update: Please see Sen. Gannon’s comment below, responding to this post.]

A reader has shared with me an email she received several weeks ago from Sen. Gannon regarding the bill, in which the senator stated that only ten GOP senators will accept the bill as passed by the House. In the email, he did not name the senators. The current membership of the Senate is 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The bill contains an exception for medical emergencies that would threaten the life of the mother or would cause her “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

Diocese: don’t send message that “some lives are less worth living than others”

Robert Dunn, director of the office of public policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, sent out a call to action on April 20, urging supporters of HB 625 to contact their senators.

“To summarize [the Diocese’s] position: State law should not send the message that, based on certain characteristics, some lives are less worth living than others. All children have the right to life and to a recognition of their human dignity. If we want society to respect and value the child who is homeless, or the child at the border, or the child without access to health care, or the child with disabilities, then it is essential that society also respect and value the child in the womb as well. Please contact your Senator…to respectfully urge a vote to pass HB 625 without any amendments that would water down the bill.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Cornerstone: watch out for amendments

Cornerstone Action published a commentary on April 27 entitled “Protect the Late-Term Preborn: Don’t Let Amendments Sabotage HB 625.”

While favoring amendments from Sens. Regina Birdsell and Harold French – the texts of which were not part of Cornerstone’s post – the organization warned against other proposals, including an exception for eugenic abortions.

“If HB 625-FN is to pass and fulfill its moderate mission of protecting late-term preborn life in the state, it will need informed and educated support for the original bill and the proposed Birdsell and French amendments. Any other amendments could endanger the bill and its effectiveness.”

(While I am no longer a lobbyist, I formerly represented Cornerstone at the State House.

The next Senate calendar will be published this evening.