CONCORD - On Thursday, January 6, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to table HB 622. In Committee, the retained bill had been amended to repeal the new state mandate that all people seeking abortion care must first undergo an ultrasound, even if it is not medically necessary. As explained later during the House session, the Speaker confirmed he would have ruled the Committee amendment, on a bill that sought to restrict access to abortion, as non-germane.
The ultrasound mandate was adopted as part of Governor Sununu’s abortion ban in the state budget, which restricts abortion at or after 24 weeks gestation, with virtually no exceptions, including none for fatal fetal diagnoses, rape, or incest, and criminalizes doctors.Since the signing of HB 2, polling released from the UNH Survey Center confirms that the measures are deeply unpopular with New Hampshire voters: two-thirds of Granite Staters oppose the abortion ban and ultrasound mandate.
Statement from Kayla Montgomery, VP of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:
“Despite bipartisan support for ending government mandated ultrasounds for abortion care, today Republican House leadership used parliamentary politics to thwart bipartisan efforts to protect reproductive freedom.
To be clear - broad based government mandates that require all people seeking abortion care first undergo an ultrasound, even if it is not medically necessary, serve only one purpose - to shame patients and add barriers to abortion access.
Every day New Hampshire’s ultrasound mandate stays in effect is another day that patients are harmed. Fortunately, additional legislation has been filed that would repeal this provision and strike New Hampshire’s cruel abortion ban. We urge lawmakers and Governor Sununu to protect the freedom of all Granite Staters to make personal, private health care decisions, without government interference, by supporting future repeal legislation.”
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.
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.
Nearly 200 New Hampshire medical providers opposed this bill during the legislative process.
Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund supports SB 399 and HB 1673, which have been filed in the Senate and House respectively to repeal the ultrasound mandate and abortion ban. SB 399 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 19th at 1:00 p.m.
HB 1609, which would add exceptions to the abortion ban, would also repeal the ultrasound mandate provision.
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.
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.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) is the largest provider of reproductive and sexual health care for women, men and young people 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. In 2020, we saw nearly 10,000 patients at these sites.