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.)

Abortions Statistics Bill Rejected By Committee

A bill to require collection of public health statistics relative to abortion will go to the New Hampshire House with an “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) recommendation. The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee voted 12-8 along party lines to report the bill ITL.

The bill will be voted on by the full House as early as February 14. Unless the committee recommendation is overturned, New Hampshire will remain one of three states failing to report abortion data to the Centers for Disease Control.

N.H. House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee

Committee members voting “inexpedient to legislate,” all Democrat: Reps. Polly Campion (D-Etna), Gerri Cannon (D-Somersworth), Mary Freitas (D-Manchester), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), James MacKay (D-Concord), Richard Osborne (D-Campton), Jeffrey Salloway (D-Lee), Joe Schapiro (D-Keene), Kendall Snow (D-Manchester), Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth), Lucy Weber (D-Walpole), and Gary Woods (D-Bow).

Opposing the ITL motion were eight Republicans: Reps. Dennis Acton (R-Fremont), John Fothergill (R-Colebrook), Joseph Guthrie (R-Hampstead), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), Charles McMahon (R-Windham), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead), and Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont).

Rep. Osborne, speaking before the vote, told his colleagues, “All these things [New Hampshire abortion statistics] are already in the CDC.” He claimed to have found New Hampshire abortion information online. [Note: see comment below this post from one of Rep. Osborne’s colleagues, pointing out that Rep. Osborne later corrected his statement.]

Rep. Osborne’s claim is at variance with the latest Abortion Surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control. From that report:

  • “This report summarizes abortion data for 2015 that were provided voluntarily to CDC by the central health agencies of 49 reporting areas (the District of Columbia [DC]; New York City; and 47 states, [excluding California, Maryland, and New Hampshire]).” [page 2, emphasis added]
  • Page 5, “U.S. Totals,” emphasis added: “Among the 49 reporting areas that provided data for 2015, a total of 638,169 abortions were reported. All 49 of these areas provided data every year during 2006–2015. Excludes California, Maryland, and New Hampshire.”

Don’t Get Mad. Get Busy.

Yes, New York just passed an outrageous abortion law. But remember, New Hampshire got there first: no limitations on abortion, and no protection for children born alive after attempted abortion. We even out-do New York in one way: New Hampshire doesn’t collect any abortion statistics. And therein lies the best way for a Granite Stater to react to the news from New York.

Demand an abortion statistics law. There’s a hearing for one on Thursday, January 24, 2019 – mere hours away, as I publish this – at 11 a.m. in room 205 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord. The bill is HB 158-FN.

My social media feeds are full of upset New Hampshire neighbors, all of them sick at heart over the New York news. Here’s our challenge: get just as upset about New Hampshire’s situation, and then do something about it, starting with the abortion statistics hearing.

If every single one of my distressed friends were to contact the committee members who will consider the statistics bill, they’d make an impression. You can send a message to all twenty-two members of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee by sending one email to one address: HHSEA@leg.state.nh.us. Simple message: Please vote ought to pass on HB 158-FN, the abortion statistics bill.

If even half of my upset friends took a day off work to attend the hearing and sign the “blue sheet” supporting the bill, they’d make an impression. They’d pack the whole committee room, in fact, and overflow into the hallway all the way down to the elevators. I know it’s hard to take a day off work. I also know it hurts to go to a hearing and see how many abortion advocates make that kind of sacrifice without batting an eyelash.

It’s easy for me to rail about New York politicians. It’s easy to go online and warn that Governor Cuomo’s soul is in peril (not a message from me, but I’ve seen it more than once in my media feed). It’s easy to share photos of New York buildings lit up in pink to “celebrate” the passage of the new abortion law.

How about we take that energy and anger and indignation and grief and put it where it will do some good?

The abortion statistics bill would authorize New Hampshire public health authorities to do what 47 other states already do: collect abortion information in a way that protects patient privacy, and report the numbers to the federal Centers for Disease Control. How many abortions, maternal age, gestational age, incidence of post-abortion complications: New Hampshire public health authorities only know what abortion providers tell them. There’s no reporting law. HB 158-FN would change that.

I am aware that passage is unlikely, given the current makeup of the New Hampshire legislature. This is a modest little test case, though: will we bring the same intensity to this bill that we’re bringing to the online fuss over New York’s lamentable law? Will we write those emails, call those reps, come to the hearing, and eventually show up for the House vote? Will we use social media as intensively to promote HB 158-FN as we use it to criticize New York?

We can try.

How NH’s Secretary of State Could Affect Abortion Statistics

Former Executive Councilor Colin “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” Van Ostern is campaigning to replace New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. The vote will be taken on December 5 by the newly-elected House and Senate in Concord. The result will have implications for an important pro-life policy goal.

[Update, 12/6/18: Secretary of State Gardner narrowly won re-election over Mr. Van Ostern.]

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From June 2016: then-Executive Councilors Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern before voting Yes on contracts with abortion providers.

New Hampshire is one of very few states that does not report abortion statistics to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a public health measure. If – excuse me, when – New Hampshire finally puts women’s health ahead of lesser concerns, two state departments will be involved in any statistics program: the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which oversees public health issues, and the Department of State, which oversees the Division of Vital Records.

That’s why it matters who holds the position of New Hampshire Secretary of State. The administrative framework for carrying out any statistics-collection program will be handled by the team in the vital records office. If that office answers to a pro-abortion Secretary of State, I don’t believe cooperation with an abortion statistics law will be forthcoming.

In past discussions to which I’ve been a party regarding proposed abortion-statistics legislation, a representative of the vital records office has been present. At every point, that representative has been scrupulously neutral on abortion, assuring policymakers that the division can find and implement any necessary software and procedures to collect abortion statistics in a manner that respects the privacy of all individuals.

Whenever a legislative policy committee has had a hearing on abortion and has requested input from the vital records office, that has been the essence of the office’s message: you tell us what you want collected – and since this is information other states are already collecting and reporting to the CDC, we’re not talking rocket science here – and we’ll get the job done.

That’s been the policy under Bill Gardner. Mr. Gardner is a Democrat, but at no point in his tenure as Secretary of State has that made a difference to him. He has carried out every aspect of his job in a nonpartisan manner. Andrew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy summed it up:

…Gardner gave his loyalty to the office, never to a party or person. Being his friend, as many legislators have been, was no help if your race was close. Being a member of his political party was no help, either. And everyone knew it.

Gardner always understood that the survival of a democratic republic requires trust in its institutions. If the state’s top election official showed even hints of favoritism, trust in the system would erode. And that would undermine our whole experiment in republican government.

Newly-elected Democrats in the New Hampshire House held a straw poll not long ago. Van Ostern won in a landslide. Since then, many New Hampshire officials – including Democrats former Gov. John Lynch and current Sen. Lou D’Allesandro – have spoken up about why they support Gardner for Secretary of State. Will their endorsements make a difference? We’ll find out on December 5.

That’s when the New Hampshire House and Senate will meet in joint session. First order of business will be swearing in the victors of November’s election. Democrats will be in the majority. Then comes the vote for Secretary of State.

The result is going to matter.

Gosnell (Film Review)

Gosnell is subtitled the Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, signaling a true-crime story. The film is that, and more. For all the horror and injustice inherent in the crimes of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia, this movie is about ordinary people and how they went about clearing away the horror and bringing justice to victims.

In Gosnell, the focus is on people, not on issues or causes. Therein lies the film’s strength.

The real-life Kermit Gosnell is serving life in prison after being convicted in of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of manslaughter, and a host of lesser charges. He got away with murder and a filthy clinic for many years, as authorities in Pennsylvania – Republican and Democrat alike – determined that regulation and oversight of abortion facilities was bad for women. Politics collided with women’s health.

The result at Gosnell’s abortion “clinic”: women died, women suffered, and children who survived attempted late-term abortion were ghoulishly murdered. Body parts from aborted children were kept like trophies; leaking bags of medical waste littered the facility. Gosnell’s crimes were discovered by authorities only by accident, as police raided the clinic as part of a drug investigation.

In the hands of an inept screenwriter or the wrong director, this true-crime story could have gone badly awry.  The makers of Gosnell got it right. The script leans heavily on trial transcripts and a grand jury report, yet dialogue flows naturally. The filmmakers thankfully manage largely to avoid melodrama; the sensational subtitle of the film is an exception.

The film’s subject matter made conventional funding hard to come by. The team behind the movie resorted to crowdfunding, and 30,000 people donated a total of $2.3 million to bring Gosnell to the screen.

Individual human beings matter in this film, including the women who came to Gosnell for abortions. The only judgment that viewers are invited to make regarding the women is about the mistreatment to which they were subjected.

The film takes time to do something that Philadelphia health authorities never did: tell the story of Karnamaya Mongar,  who came to Gosnell for an abortion. She wound up dead from an overdose of drugs administered by a poorly-trained staff acting under Gosnell’s direction. Eventually, Gosnell was convicted of manslaughter in her death, no thanks to the state and local health authorities who failed to inspect Gosnell’s facility for more than a decade.

The first glimmer of justice for Gosnell’s patients came thanks to police, most of them indifferent to abortion, who carried out a drug raid and discovered much more than they bargained for. They had no political agenda. They simply did their jobs and followed the evidence.

Dean Cain portrays Detective James Wood, engaging and friendly. His laconic partner, Stark, is played by AlfonZo Rachel, better known for his social commentaries on various media platforms.

At times during the film, the scenes of investigation are so ill-lit as to be irksome. One strains to see what’s happening on the screen- can’t there be more light?  All that can be seen at one time is what’s illuminated by a single police officer’s flashlight: a dirty piece of equipment, bloody linens, quick (but never gratuitous) views of Gosnell’s “trophies.” No gore, no exaggeration, yet those glimpses pack a punch.

Evidence from Gosnell’s office and home landed on the desks of prosecutors in Philadelphia who harbored no illusions about the trouble that would accompany the prosecution of an abortionist. Lead prosecutor Lexi McGuire  – a composite character played by Sarah Jane Morris – is pro-choice, but she refuses to look the other way when investigators bring her evidence of children killed by Gosnell after they survived attempted abortion. Like the investigators, she’s an ordinary person who does her job, and in so doing finds herself changed.

Earl Billings is unsettling as Kermit Gosnell. Unflappable in the face of investigators, bizarrely concerned about the welfare of his cats and turtles, calmly playing piano as police and prosecutors search through his files, Billings’s Gosnell seems like an affable if slightly ditzy grandfather. His face gives no clue to his taste for carnage. The screenwriters’ version of the doctor tracks closely with the documentation of the actual case and with interviews Gosnell has granted since his conviction.

Ironically, the only over-the-top characterization in the film comes from the man whose direction keeps the film understated. Director Nick Searcy plays Gosnell’s attorney, an expensively-clad shark who defends Gosnell with fierce and noisy passion. He chips away at the numerous charges against his client, but he can’t quite make jurors forget Karnamaya Mongar or the photos of babies with their spines “snipped.”

Gosnell’s office was raided in 2010. The trial was in 2013. During all that time, the Philadelphia Inquirer covered the case as a local-crime story, while most other media outlets ignored it. Finally, during the trial, national reporters were goaded (shamed?) into covering the story as a few journalists called attention to Gosnell. In the movie, the intrepid few who covered the case from day one are blended to create the character Molly Mullaney, a blogger (or “citizen journalist,” as she crisply introduces herself), played with attitude by Cyrina Fiallo.

Gosnell is based in part on the book by the same name by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, husband-and-wife authors who documented the trial and later teamed up to produce the film. In the book, McElhinney describes how her own views were affected by the doctor’s crimes.

I never trusted or liked pro-life activists. Even at college I thought them too earnest and too religious….

Fast forward to April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia, when everything changed….[T]he images shown in the courtroom were not from activists, they were from police detectives and medical examiners and workers at the 3801 Lancaster Ave. clinic….What they said and the pictures they showed changed me. I am not the same person I was.

A story so powerful deserves to be told with care, and Gosnell meets the challenge.

After viewing the film, I went back to re-read the grand jury report that led to Gosnell’s trial. It underscores how much restraint was exercised by the makers of Gosnell as they brought the story to the screen.

Had state and local officials performed their duties properly, Gosnell’s clinic would have been shut down decades ago. Gosnell would have lost the medical license that he used to inflict irreparable harm on women; to illegally abort viable, late-term fetuses; and to kill innumerable babies outside the womb….Let us say right up front that we realize this case will be used by those on both sides of the abortion debate. We ourselves cover a spectrum of personal beliefs about the morality of abortion. For us as a criminal grand jury, however, the case is not about that controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants. We find common ground in exposing what happened here, and in recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.


Gosnell premieres nationwide on Friday, October 12, 2018. See gosnellmovie.com for a list of theaters.