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PPNHAF Testimony in Support of HB 1673, to Repeal New Hampshire's Abortion Ban and Ultrasound Mandate

HB1673: relative to women's health privacy and repealing the fetal health protection act Committee: House Judiciary

Date: February 10, 2022 Position: Support

Background: On January 1, 2022 New Hampshire’s first abortion ban in modern history went into effect. It bans abortion at or after 24 weeks with virtually no exceptions. There is a very narrow exception for extreme physical maternal health risks, but none for cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal diagnoses, and it criminalizes doctors with fines and up to seven years in prison. Furthermore, it requires an ultrasound prior to all abortion care - at all stages of pregnancy. This

provision isn’t consistent with best medical practices and affects the ability of providers to deliver patient-centered, trauma-informed care. Patients should be allowed to decide their own personal medical care with their health care providers, not have their options limited by politicians.

Support HB 1673 to repeal New Hampshire’s cruel abortion ban and ultrasound mandate.

Each pregnancy and each circumstance is unique. That’s why one-size-fits-all laws don’t work when people are making personal medical decisions. New Hampshire’s current law bans abortion arbitrarily at or after 24 weeks, no matter the health of the fetus. This law is not based on science or standard medical care.

Throughout the legislative process in 2021, we heard from patients and providers who all said the same thing: arbitrarily banning abortion later in pregnancy harms women and families who have to make decisions in complex circumstances. Many pregnant women do not receive a serious fetal diagnosis until after the point at which current New Hampshire law makes abortion unavailable. Granite Staters in these circumstances are now not only faced with what can be a very difficult, painful decision, but they also must now have to coordinate out-of-state travel and overcome countless other hurdles in order to get the care they need.

The newly enacted law criminalizes doctors for doing their job and working with their patients to get the health care they need. New Hampshire law threatens providers with a felony and imprisonment. Physicians who are exercising their best medical judgment in what could be a very stressful and time-sensitive moment could face up to seven years in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. This is an invitation for intimidation and harassment against medical professionals who treat patients later in pregnancies. The head of Dartmouth-Hitchcock OB/GYN stated that this law will make it difficult to recruit and retain qualified doctors to our state. Why is New Hampshire sending its citizens - in complex medical situations where days count - out of state to get the care that New Hampshire doctors are trained to deliver? People should be able to get the care they need in their communities.

We heard from public health experts that this abortion ban will have negative impacts on the health care landscape in New Hampshire. At an October 27 Executive Council meeting, DHHS Commissioner Shibinette, when asked about our fragile maternal-fetal health care system, replied, “I think that it makes sense that specialty and subspeciality providers

would typically settle in states that are more supportive and less restrictive around family planning and abortion. The more restrictive we become, the less attractive New Hampshire becomes for those specialties.1

When this new law was being debated last year, nearly 200 New Hampshire health care providers expressed their opposition to this law because “New Hampshire already struggles to retain medical professionals and we are deeply concerned that these criminal penalties will undermine the state’s efforts to recruit and retain  clinicians.2 We must repeal this ban before its effects begin to weaken our excellent maternal and fetal health outcomes.

HB 1673 will also remove the invasive, costly, burdensome, and often medically unnecessary ultrasound requirement. Under New Hampshire law, it is mandatory that all patients seeking an abortion, no matter at what stage of the pregnancy, must have an ultrasound. At PPNNE, a first-trimester ultrasound is most often transvaginal. This mandate is simply not consistent with best medical practices and affects PPNNE’s ability to provide patient-centered, trauma- informed care. But under New Hampshire law, it is mandated, regardless of clinician recommendation. Health care providers should decide this personal medical care with their patients, not politicians. These costly and invasive tests create another barrier to abortion access, especially for uninsured people and people struggling financially.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible for a person to get an abortion as soon as they decide to. This is in part because politicians have passed laws that put care out of reach or, especially right now, because rapidly changing pandemic protocols may delay care for hospital patients. With so many variables to consider, it is critical that patients and doctors have every medical option available based on their own unique situation. People seeking medical care later in pregnancy deserve our compassion and support — not judgment, and certainly not politicians telling them what to do.

We trust a patient and their doctor. Period. Making a decision to continue or end a pregnancy can be a complex medical and personal decision. Throughout their pregnancy, a person must be able to make health care decisions that are best for their circumstances, including whether to end a pregnancy. Doctors must be able to provide the best health care for each individual patient. Unfortunately, the state of New Hampshire is now standing in the way of a patient making their own choices about their health.

Every Granite Stater must have the freedom and privacy to make decisions about their pregnancy in consultation with their doctors. We urge a vote of “OUGHT TO PASS” on HB 1673 to reverse this cruel abortion ban.

For more information contact: Kayla Montgomery, [email protected]

 Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) is the largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care across the State of New Hampshire. We serve New Hampshire residents through 6 health centers in Claremont, Derry, Exeter, Keene, Manchester and White River Junction, VT. Last year we saw more than 10,000 patients at these sites. PPNNE was named a 2021 Guardian of Excellence Award® winner by Press Ganey, the national leader in health care consumer and workforce engagement. Press Ganey recognizes PPNNE as a top-performing health care organization, achieving the 95th percentile or above for performance in patient experience, out of more than 20,000 medical practices.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund (PPNHAF) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy

1 https://sos.nh.gov/administration/miscellaneous/governor-executive-council/2021-meetings/

2 https://www.vnews.com/Upper-Valley-health-care-professionals-protest-abortion-ban-40980320


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