CONCORD - On Thursday, March 31, 2022, the New Hampshire House will vote on the last bill aimed at mitigating the harm caused by New Hampshire’s abortion ban and ultrasound mandate - HB 1609. As amended in the House Finance Committee last week, HB 1609 would add critical exceptions for fatal fetal diagnoses to the 24-week abortion ban and remove the requirement that all people seeking abortion care first undergo an ultrasound - at every stage of pregnancy - regardless of whether it is medically necessary.
Statement from Liz Canada, Advocacy Manager for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:
“Since the adoption of New Hampshire’s first abortion ban in modern history, public outcry has rightly increased about this cruel law that criminalizes doctors, shames women, and takes options away from families in complex circumstances.
While we believe abortion ban should be struck in its entirety, we are grateful a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is listening to the medical professionals and women of New Hampshire and are working together to mitigate some of the harm caused by our state’s abortion ban and ultrasound mandate.
Granite State women and families who find themselves in complex circumstances surrounding pregnancy, like a fatal fetal diagnosis, deserve our compassion and support - not shame and certainly not arbitrary bans on abortion care. We urge the full House of Representatives to support HB 1609.”
- HB 1609 was filed by six Republicans, led by Representative Dan Wolf, to mitigate the harm caused by New Hampshire’s abortion ban and ultrasound mandate.
- In January, Governor Sununu stated his support for HB 1609 as filed in a letter to the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee.
HB 1609 Timeline:
- February 17, 2022:
- The House of Representatives overturned the Committee report of “Ought to Pass” with Amendment #2022-0048h, which would have preserved the abortion ban in its current form, on a 175-177 vote.
- The House of Representatives laid HB 1609 on the table, 177-176, with a tie-breaking vote cast by Speaker Packard.
- HB 1609 was later removed from the table, 178-175, and voted “Ought to Pass” 179-174.
- Speaker Packard then referred HB 1609 to Finance.
- Work sessions were held on HB 1609 on March 14 and March 21, 2022.
- A Finance Executive Session on HB 1609 was held on March 23, 2022.
- The House Finance Committee voted 10-11 on an “ITL” motion, with Reps. Lynn and Theberge voting with the Democrats to defeat the motion.
- Subsequently, Representative Edwards offered a Committee amendment to narrow the scope of HB 1609 by removing exceptions for rape and incest to the abortion ban. The amendment also clarifies the ultrasound provision, and removes the requirement that all people seeking abortion care - at every stage of pregnancy - first have an ultrasound.
- The House Finance Committee voted 20-1 in favor of “Ought to Pass as amended” with the Edwards Committee amendment.
- Throughout this legislative process, New Hampshire women have bravely shared their stories about abortion later in pregnancy to illustrate the need to reform this abortion ban.
24-Week Abortion Ban:
- This ban is extreme for many reasons. It has no exceptions for fatal fetal diagnoses, rape, or incest; and it has a very narrow exception for maternal physical health.
- Additionally, this abortion ban criminalizes health care providers with a class B felony which could come with up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $100,000, allows husbands to file civil actions, and allows the patient’s parents to file civil actions.
- There are no other medical procedures in New Hampshire law subject to felony charges and imprisonment for health care professionals.
Ultrasound Mandate Provision:
- Section 39 of HB 2 states: “Except in the case of medical emergency as specifically defined in paragraph III, no abortion shall be performed, induced, or attempted by any health care provider unless a health care provider has first made a determination of the probable gestational age of the fetus…the health care provider shall conduct an obstetric ultrasound examination of the patient for the purpose of making the determination.”
- While ultrasounds are performed in some circumstances, they may be unnecessary for some patients accessing abortion. This is especially true for medication abortion, which is a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy at early gestations and accounts for about 39 percent of all abortion care nationally. Requiring an ultrasound to obtain a medication abortion creates unnecessary barriers to abortion access, including transportation and cost.
- According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology, “For patients with regular menstrual cycles, a certain last menstrual period within the prior 56 days, and no signs, symptoms, or risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, a clinical examination or ultrasound examination is not necessary before medication abortion.” With this provision, however, an ultrasound will be required to access abortion care.
- The new law requires an ultrasound before all abortion care to determine gestational age. In the earliest stages of pregnancy, at PPNNE a transvaginal ultrasound is necessary to meet that requirement. At PPNNE, for abortion care after 11 weeks, an abdominal (or pelvic) ultrasound is generally used.
- Requiring ultrasounds prior to all abortion care is intended to shame patients. During the Committee of Conference, a state representative advocating for this provision explained that “ultrasound images can be useful to that mother to connect to the baby that’s inside of her so that she’s better able to make a decision as is whether she wants to go forward with the procedure.” This type of statement makes clear that some New Hampshire lawmakers do not trust patients to make their own health care decisions.
- When New Hampshire’s abortion ban and ultrasound requirement was being considered in 2021, nearly 200 New Hampshire health care providers expressed their opposition to this law.
- On February 2, 2022, a contingent of medical providers from The Elliot Hospital cosigned a letter to senators and Governor Sununu asking them to repeal this law because “it will lead to cruel and unnecessary physical and emotional harm to the women of New Hampshire.”
- In March, 2022, a coalition of statewide medical providers urged the New Hampshire House and Senate to mitigate the harm caused by New Hampshire’s abortion ban and ultrasound mandate.
- HB 1673 was filed in the House to repeal the ultrasound mandate and abortion ban. In a late night session on March 16, 2022, the House of Representatives overturned a bipartisan Committee amendment (175-177) and stripped the language on the floor to leave the state abortion ban intact. HB 1673 now goes to the Senate with only language that clarifies the ultrasound mandate provision.
- The Senate adopted SB 399 as amended, which preserves the abortion ban but mitigates the harm caused by the ultrasound mandate. SB 399 will next go to the House for consideration.
- Polling released in July, 2021 from the UNH Survey Center shows that New Hampshire’s abortion ban is deeply unpopular, with only one-third of Granite Staters in support of it. Nearly half of independent Granite Staters oppose this ban, as do 27 percent of Republicans.
- The UNH Survey Center polling also shows that only 31 percent of Granite Staters support the provision signed by Governor Sununu that mandates medically unnecessary, often invasive ultrasounds before abortion care at all stages of pregnancy.
- The truth is, most Granite Staters and most Americans support access to safe, legal abortion. If someone has decided to have an abortion, more than 8 in 10 respondents want the experience to be supportive and nonjudgmental, without added burdens or protesters, affordable and safe.
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.