Facts About N.H. Abortion Laws

(Note: This is based on a post I wrote for Cornerstone Action, which kindly gave me permission to re-post here.)

New York’s governor ordered buildings to be illuminated in pink lights on January 22, in celebration of state law he had just signed eliminating most limitations on abortion. Legislators in Virginia and Vermont are ready to follow suit with radically anti-life policies.

Think it couldn’t happen in New Hampshire? The grim fact is that it already has. New Hampshire is one of the most abortion-friendly states in the country. Here are the facts.

How far into pregnancy are abortions permitted in New Hampshire?

  • Abortions are legal, unrestricted, and unregulated throughout all 40 weeks of pregnancy in New Hampshire.
  • As recently as 2017 and 2018, legislators rejected bills that would have provided protection for viable preborn children.

What laws in New Hampshire affect abortion now?

  • New Hampshire has a parental notification statute. When a minor seeks abortion, she needs to notify a parent or guardian, or else use a “judicial bypass” in which a judge determines she is mature enough to make her own decision. The law calls for notification, not consent.
  • New Hampshire bans the barbaric abortion method known as partial-birth abortion or dilation-&-extraction, in which a child is delivered partway before being killed. This ban was passed in 2012.
  • As of early 2019, New Hampshire policy limits the use of Medicaid funds for abortion.
  • New Hampshire adopted a fetal homicide statute in 2017, allowing prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against a person whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s will. While not an abortion law, it was bitterly opposed by abortion advocates.

How many abortions are performed in New Hampshire annually?

  • No one knows, and that includes state lawmakers. New Hampshire does not have an abortion statistics law, despite the fact that the federal Centers for Disease Control attempts to collect abortion data. Forty-seven other states manage to collect and report such data, while protecting the anonymity and privacy of individual women obtaining abortions.
  • New Hampshire public health officials have no reliable data on the age of women seeking abortion, the stage of pregnancy at which abortions are performed, and whether women are experiencing abortion complications.

How many doctors do abortions in New Hampshire?

  • No one knows, since public health authorities do not collect any data on abortions.
  • There is no requirement that abortion providers in New Hampshire have any medical training or certification whatsoever.

Do New Hampshire state public health authorities inspect abortion facilities?

  • No, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. From a May 19, 2013 report in the New Hampshire Sunday News: “Kris Neilsen, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, explained in an email that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood and the Concord Feminist Health Center are exempt from state licensing and inspection requirements because they are considered physician offices. Twenty-three health care providers such as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and dialysis centers are licensed by the state, but not abortion clinics. ‘In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic – the majority of abortions are done in doctors offices … and doctors’ offices are exempt from licensure under RSA 151:2 II,’ Neilsen said. ‘Because they are exempt, we have no jurisdiction over them, and neither does anyone else.’”

Who sets standards for abortion facilities?

  • The abortion providers themselves determine what standards to use. Since there is no law that providers have any medical training, those “standards” need not relate in any way to women’s health.

What’s the rate of post-abortion complications experienced by New Hampshire women?

  • No one knows, since lawmakers refuse to demand abortion statistics and public health officials decline to collect them. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” sums it up.

Does New Hampshire law protect children who survive attempted abortion?

  • No. Children who survive attempted abortion are not entitled to any more care than the abortionist wishes to provide. A bill to recognize a duty to care for such infants was defeated by the New Hampshire House in 2016.

Does New Hampshire law recognize the conscience rights of health care personnel who choose not to participate in abortion?

  • No. A bill to provide conscience protections was killed in the New Hampshire House in 2018. Health care professionals in New Hampshire can lose their jobs and be subject to professional sanctions for refusing to assist in abortions.

How did New Hampshire become such a haven for abortion providers?

  • In 1997, then-Governor (now U.S. Senator) Jeanne Shaheen signed a law repealing New Hampshire’s 19th-century anti-abortion laws. She did so knowing full well that no updated laws were in place. With a stroke of her pen, and with the cooperation of legislators, New Hampshire abortion regulation disappeared. So did concern for the health of women obtaining abortions. So did concern for preborn children, even moments away from birth.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can help turn a culture of abortion into a culture that respects and nurtures life, especially in its most vulnerable stages.

  • Share the message: Knowledge is power, and many people don’t know the facts about abortion in New Hampshire.
  • Pray. Join with your faith community. A culture of prayer will lead to a culture of life.
  • Politicians bear a great deal of responsibility for New Hampshire’s abortion-friendly laws, but blaming Concord won’t help. What will help is electing representatives at all levels of government who respect the right to life, and who care about the health of pregnant women and their children. Vote for candidates who recognize that New Hampshire law relative to abortion must be changed.
  • Consider running for local or state office.
  • Work within your community to create and sustain life-affirming options for women and children at risk from abortion. Contact your local pro-life pregnancy care center to learn about practical ways you can help.

(The original version of this post contained an incorrect alternative term for partial-birth abortion. This version contains corrected information.)

Filed So Far: Some Bills for 2018

More than 800 bills have been filed so far by New Hampshire legislators for 2018. Here are a few on which I’ll be reporting, with links to the texts of the bill where available. The Senate hasn’t released all its bill requests yet, so watch for updates in future posts.

HB 1707: The “Abortion Information Act,” requiring the physician who performs an abortion, or the referring physician, to provide the pregnant woman with certain information at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, and to obtain her consent that she has received such information. Sponsors: Reps. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Victoria Sullivan (R-Manchester), Kevin Verville (R-Deerfield), and Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester).

HB 1680: The “Viable Fetus Protection Act,” to restrict post-viability abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead), Jeanine Notter, and Victoria Sullivan.

HB 1721: to prevent coerced abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford), Mark Pearson, Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Dan Itse (R-Fremont), Jeanine Notter, Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry), Duane Brown (R-Wentworth), and Carl Seidel (R-Nashua).

LSR 2222 (no bill number assigned yet), relative to conscience rights for medical professionals. Sponsors: Reps. Kathleen Souza, Dan Itse, Al Baldasaro, Jeanine Notter, Linda Gould (R-Bedford), James Spillane (R-Deerfield), Kurt Wuelper, Carl Seidel, Jess Edwards (R-Auburn), and Mark Pearson.

HB 1511: amending the fetal homicide law to make it effective at 8 weeks of pregnancy (instead of the 20-week standard in the law signed by Gov. Sununu earlier this year), and removing the law’s exemptions for actions performed by, or at the direction of, the pregnant woman. (I’ll have plenty to say about this one after New Year’s Day, and I doubt I’ll please the sponsors.) Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper, Linda Gould, Al Baldasaro, Kathleen Souza, Jeanine Notter, and Dan Itse.

HB 1503: authorizing minors 16 years of age and over to independently consent to medical procedures. Sponsor: Rep. Caleb Dyer (L-Pelham).

HB 1671: abolishing the death penalty in New Hampshire. Sponsors: Reps. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene), Caleb Dyer, Ellen Read (D-Newmarket), and Donovan Fenton (D-Keene).

LSR 2748 (no bill number assigned yet): establishing a committee to study end-of-life choices. Sponsors: Sens. Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover) , Bette Lasky (D-Nashua), David Watters (D-Dover), Dan Feltes (D-Concord), Jay Kahn (D-Keene), Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester), and Reps. James MacKay (D-Concord) and Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom).

Parental notification, if it’s OK with the school

I’m not a gambler. If I were, I’d bet heavily that a certain guidance counselor from Farmington will be getting an award this year from at least one abortion advocacy group. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has placed her in the spotlight by ruling in her favor in a wrongful-termination case.


From the April 10 New Hampshire Union Leader, “Judge Says Abortion Decision is Flawed”:

In November 2012, [guidance counselor Demetria] McKaig was working with a pregnant 15-year-old student and her boyfriend, who told her they wanted to terminate a pregnancy. McKaig suggested that the student tell her mother, but she refused, saying she was fearful for her safety.

Under a state law that took effect in January 2012, pregnant girls under 18 seeking an abortion must notify their parents or get a judge’s approval for the procedure.

McKaig contacted the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union for assistance in preventing the girl’s mother from finding out about the pregnancy, even though Farmington High Principal Matt Jozokos ordered school staff to inform the mother.

McKaig’s contract was non-renewed for insubordination, breach of student confidentiality and neglect of duties.

But the state’s highest court agreed with the state Board of Education’s conclusion that “to avoid insubordination, McKaig was required only to discuss her disagreement with the principal, which she did.” 

It took two tries to get New Hampshire’s parental notification law in place without legal challenge. It has a judicial bypass provision to keep the U.S. Supreme Court happy.  If an abortion-vulnerable pregnant young woman who is still a minor is afraid “mom’s going to kill me” – whether or not that fear is well-founded – she can go to a judge. Abortion providers will be glad to help. The judge does not have the role of giving permission for the abortion. Instead, the judge makes a determination whether or not the minor is mature enough to make her own decision.

If a judge rules that the minor is not mature enough, she can always go to another judge.

In the Farmington case, the parental notification law was not at issue. The quarrel was between the school and the counselor whose contract was not renewed. The court on a 4-1 vote found in the counselor’s favor.

Let the record show that Justice Robert Lynn declined to endorse the result. “Because I cannot join the bandwagon of political correctness that provides the only justification for the majority’s decision, I respectfully dissent,” he wrote.

“Privacy” cloaks many things about this case, this pregnancy, this abortion. Was statutory rape involved? Was sexual or domestic abuse involved? If the pregnant young women feared for her safety at home, should a child abuse report have been filed? There is a state law that anyone who suspects child abuse is supposed to report it to DCYF. Did the counselor do that on her way to the ACLU-NH office?

Passage of the parental notification law was a hard-fought and necessary victory. It’s about parental rights and the safety of pregnant adolescents, though, not about the right to life. And as the Farmington case implies, the law leads to troubling questions about the “counseling” some pregnant students receive at public expense.

 

 

One step forward, two steps back: this week in other states

State House, Concord NH
What’s going on under other State House domes?

When it comes to life-issue legislation – and bills on most other topics, for that matter – the Granite State seldom breaks new ground. Watch what’s going on in other states, and you’ll have a good idea of what’s coming up in Concord. Here are a few of this week’s notable items.


NEBRASKA: On May 27, legislators repealed the state’s death penalty. They overrode Governor Pete Ricketts’s veto by a 30-19 vote. (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature.) From the New York Times coverage of the vote: “Opponents of the death penalty here were able to build a coalition that spanned the ideological spectrum by winning the support of Republican legislators who said they believed capital punishment was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values, as well as that of lawmakers who cited religious or moral reasons for supporting the repeal. Nebraska joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C., in banning the death penalty.”

New Hampshire’s last attempt to repeal the death penalty fell short of passage but gained surprising support from two prominent legislators who had previously been death penalty advocates. One heart at a time …

IDAHO: The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals may or may not be the Circuit with the most decisions later overturned by the Supreme Court, depending on your source, but here’s the latest from those judges for what it’s worth. Today, they overturned Idaho’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Grounds: parts are “unconstitutionally vague,” create an “undue burden,” and “it categorically bans some abortions before viability.” Help yourself to the whole decision.

CALIFORNIA: On May 26, a bill to compel pro-life pregnancy care centers to promote abortions was passed by the California Assembly. It now goes to the state senate. Apparently, abortion providers are having so much trouble appealing to women that they need to enlist privately-funded pregnancy care centers to help with publicity. See coverage in Breitbart and LifeNews.

Pending hearings in MASSACHUSETTS: Closer to home, Massachusetts Citizens for Life says two interesting bills will have hearings at the State House in Boston on June 2. One would lower the age of consent for abortion to 16, eliminating use of the state’s parental notification statute for minors aged 16 and above. The other, strongly supported by MCFL, would amend the definition of “clinic” in the general laws and would require inspection and licensing of non-hospital abortion facilities.

I recall writing two years ago about the statement by a New Hampshire Health and Human Services official that “there is no such thing as an abortion clinic” in our state. Definitions matter. It will be interesting to see how the Massachusetts bill fares.

 

 

Parental notification: repeal vs. litigation

Jill Stanek is reporting that the Illinois Supreme Court today upheld an Illinois parental notification law passed in 1995. Yes, 1995. The plaintiffs may of course appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, if their apparently-deep pockets haven’t been emptied yet. It’s not a particularly strict law, but evidently even a whiff of parental notification is enough to justify eighteen years of litigation. Who paid for all that lawyering, anyway? Plaintiffs are listed as “The Hope Clinic for Women Ltd., et al.” I suspect the financing came from somewhere among the et al .

Does this mean anything for New Hampshire’s parental notification law? Not directly, of course. It’s interesting, however, that the Illinois law was apparently not repealed since 1995, which would have brought litigation to a halt. Pro-life elected officials make a difference, you see.

I speculated repeatedly last year that repeal of New Hampshire’s law would be a priority for the state’s abortion providers, now that Gov. Hassan is in office and there is a Democratic House majority. The Senate’s 13-11 Republican majority is unlikely to block repeal; Republican Senators Stiles and Odell voted against passage of the law. I was wrong about repeal being taken up this year, but I still believe it will come up before the 2014 election. The General Court reconvenes in January. Repeal is cheaper and quicker than litigation. I don’t see the Illinois experience being repeated in the Granite State.