HB271: repealing the fetal life protection act
Committee: House Judiciary
Date: February 15, 2023
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. It was passed into law with a very narrow exception for extreme physical maternal health risks, but none for cases of sexual assault, and it criminalizes doctors with fines and up to seven years in prison. In May of 2022, six months after the ban went into effect, HB 1609 was signed into law, which added the critical exception for a fatal fetal diagnosis. This change was made possible due to the strength and resilience of many individuals who came forward to share their personal stories about needing to access care later in pregnancy. The passage of HB 1609 fixed a problem created by lawmakers who supported the abortion ban. Lack of a fatal fetal exception needlessly harmed patients for six months. Now we have the opportunity to repeal the entire ban and return to our long, bipartisan history of supporting privacy and rejecting government intervention particularly when it comes to private medical decisions. Patients should be allowed to decide their own personal medical care with their health care providers, not have their options limited by politicians. We urge this committee to support HB 271.
Each pregnancy is different and every 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. This law is not based on science or standard medical care.
Since the introduction of New Hampshire’s abortion ban, state legislators have questioned why someone would seek an abortion later in pregnancy, if not for a fatal fetal diagnosis. Here’s the unfortunate reality: truly horrific things happen in this world, including to children. With abortion bans in place throughout the country, we are hearing of more difficult circumstances where people are denied abortion care at all stages of pregnancy - examples that, prior to Roe, would have remained under the radar because these patients would have been able to access abortion care in their home state. An example of this was the extremely public and devastating situation of a ten-year-old child rape victim in Ohio in 2021. These stories are heartbreaking and they are cruel, but they are, and have been, an awful reality. We shouldn’t have to hear firsthand from these survivors to understand that this happens. We should instead have compassion and respect and allow doctors to help their patients make these incredibly complicated decisions.
New Hampshire legislators should not be substituting their personal beliefs for the medical judgment of doctors when working with their patients in these individual and extremely complex circumstances. The government simply cannot predict or determine every single one of these situations. We hope that no Granite Stater ever finds themself in these circumstances, but under current law, they are now not only faced with this decision, but they also must now have to coordinate out-of-state travel and overcome countless other hurdles in order to get the compassionate care they deserve.
The current 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. We are all proud of the fact that New Hampshire is home to world-class doctors and hospitals who are highly trained and experienced in their fields. So why is our state 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.
The current abortion restriction impacts our health care landscape at a time when chaos and confusion around reproductive health and rights reign because of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. At an October 27, 2021 Executive Council meeting, then DHHS Commissioner Shibinette, when asked about our state’s fragile maternal-fetal health care system, replied, “I think that it makes sense that specialty and subspecialty 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.”
When this new law was being debated in 2021, 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.” We must repeal this ban before its effects begin to weaken our excellent maternal and fetal health outcomes.
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 271 and to trust women and doctors to make these private decisions without government interference.
For more information contact: Kayla Montgomery, [email protected], 603.674.8372
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 5 health centers in 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.