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Party Line Vote Thwarts Effort to Repeal Criminal Penalties for Doctors in NH Abortion Ban

CONCORD, NH - Today, the New Hampshire Senate voted 14-10 in support of Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 224, to repeal criminal and civil penalties from the state’s 24-week abortion ban, even though the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed it with strong bipartisan support and Governor Chris Sununu has previously indicated he supports the repeal of criminal and civil penalties.

After the vote, Kayla Montgomery, Vice President for Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, released the following statement:

“It is incredibly disappointing that the New Hampshire Senate has refused to listen to our state’s trusted medical community and has instead continued the criminalization of reproductive health care providers. 

The current criminal and civil penalties for medical providers contained in New Hampshire’s abortion ban have the potential to negatively impact the ability of health facilities to recruit and retain the most qualified providers of a full range of reproductive health care, from miscarriage management to pre and postnatal care. HB 224 was a bipartisan remedy to eliminate the threat of criminalization for doctors who deliver appropriate and compassionate care to their patients in often tragic and heartbreaking circumstances.

We are grateful for the bipartisan members of the Legislature who did show their support ending the criminalization of medical professionals and we thank New Hampshire’s medical providers who work every day to provide appropriate, compassionate care to their patients.”

BACKGROUND:

Polling:

  • A recently released survey from Breakthrough Campaigns conducted on behalf of Amplify NH shows that a supermajority of Granite Staters - 87% - support reproductive freedom and 64% of Granite Staters expect state elected officials to protect or expand abortion access in New Hampshire. Just 11% of Granite Staters want more abortion restrictions in the state.
  • In a new 50-state survey, PRRI found most Americans oppose abortion ban policies; 69% of Granite Staters believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
  • August 2022 polling by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center shows that support for abortion rights in New Hampshire is at a historic high and nearly 6 in 10 voters disapproved of the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.
  • Polling released in July, 2021 from the UNH Survey Center shows that New Hampshire’s newly-enacted 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 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. 

The New Hampshire Landscape:

  • Without Roe, abortion is still safe and legal in New Hampshire until 24 weeks - for now. A bill to ban abortion would have to pass to further dismantle access to abortion. 
  • The restrictions on abortion in New Hampshire are clear: access to abortion at or after 24 weeks is banned, with no exceptions for rape or incest and doctors face criminalization. 
  • NH RSA 329:49 says “Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as creating or recognizing a right to abortion.
  • New Hampshire is the only state in New England without proactive protections for abortion rights in state statutes or our state constitution.

HB 224: Removing the Criminal and Civil Penalties from NH’s Abortion Ban

  • This bill would repeal the criminal and civil penalties from New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion ban. Presently, the law, which was enacted on January 1, 2022, criminalizes doctors for doing their job and working with their patients to get the care they need by threatening providers with a felony and imprisonment. The law as it stands is an invitation for intimidation and harassment against medical professionals who treat patients later in pregnancy. 
  • In New Hampshire, 11 Labor and Delivery wings have closed in the last 20 years.
  • House Actions:
    • Public hearing remote sign ins: 914 in support; 516 opposed
    • NH House Judiciary voted 10-10 on both an “Inexpedient to Legislate” and “Ought to Pass” motion; HB 224 will now go to the full House with no committee recommendation.
    • NH House voted 205-178 in support of Ought to Pass on HB 224
  • Senate Actions:
    • NH Senate Judiciary voted 3-2 in support of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on HB 224
    • NH Senate voted 14-10 in support of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on HB 224
  • Testimony in support of HB 224:
  • Governor Sununu previously indicated he would sign HB 224.

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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 and 2022 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.

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