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CONCORD - On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Session on two proactive abortion rights bills. SB 399 would repeal New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion ban and ultrasound mandate for all abortion care. SB 436, the Access to Abortion-care Act, would enshrine abortion rights into state law and ensure that abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in our state - regardless of what decision is handed down at the US Supreme Court in the coming months. 

SB 399 was amended to mitigate the harm of the recently-enacted mandatory ultrasound requirement, but it does not address critical exceptions to New Hampshire’s current abortion ban, despite testimony from public health experts, including providers, that the current law could negatively impact the state’s ability to recruit maternal fetal medicine specialists. When this new law was being debated last year, nearly 200 New Hampshire health care providers expressed their opposition to this law. 

SB 436 was voted “inexpedient to legislate,” regardless of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court poses an unprecedented threat to abortion access nationwide, and could overturn Roe by June of 2022. This decision would result in 26 states moving to ban or deeply restrict abortion access, which would directly impact 36 million, or nearly half, of U.S. women of reproductive age. New Hampshire currently has no protections for abortion rights.

An overwhelming majority of people signing in for the public hearing on 1/19 supported these bills: 1,764 individuals had signed in support of SB 399 (1,037 opposed) and 1,642 individuals had signed in support of SB 436 (117 opposed). 

Statement from Liz Canada, Advocacy Manager for Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:

“The Senate Judiciary committee had an opportunity to repeal New Hampshire’s cruel abortion ban and protect abortion rights, knowing that -- in just a few months -- the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to erase nearly 50 years of precedent. The majority of Granite Staters support access to safe, legal abortion, and, for decades, New Hampshire lawmakers -- on both sides of the aisle-- have said the same. We are at a crisis moment in our country: now is the time to act and support a New Hampshire solution. We urge the full Senate to overturn these recommendations and pass bills to repeal the abortion ban and codify Roe v. Wade.”

BACKGROUND:

Written Testimony:

New Hampshire’s Access to Abortion-care Act (AAA):

  • SB 436 would put abortion rights into state statute. If passed into law, regardless of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion will remain safe, legal, and accessible in the Granite State.

  • The Access to Abortion-care Act upholds long-held New Hampshire values by enshrining the right to make personal, private health decisions regarding abortion in law. 

  • The AAA does not change anything about current New Hampshire abortion laws; it does, however, provide critical protections to ensure that Granite Staters can work with their doctors to get the health care they need in the majority of situations. 

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. 

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.

Polling:

  • 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.

Supreme Court:

  • Two U.S. Supreme Court cases could overturn Roe v. Wade, jeopardizing abortion access in our country. By next year, 26 states could lose abortion access, impacting 36 million - or nearly half of U.S. women of reproductive age (18-49) and more people who  can become pregnant. 

    • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Texas’ SB 8 on November 1, 2021, although not about the constitutionality of the law. SB 8 is a 6-week abortion ban, which is currently in place. Abortion remains virtually inaccessible in Texas. 

    • The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on December 1, 2021, which marks the first time in 50 years the Court agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of a pre-viability abortion ban.

    • There are 16 additional abortion-related cases one step away from the Supreme Court.

Other Legislation:

  • On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee held a hearing on HB 1609, which was amended immediately after the public hearing with the identical amendment language of SB 399. 

  • On Thursday, January 6, 2022, a bipartisan effort to repeal New Hampshire’s ultrasound mandate was thwarted by the Speaker’s declaration that he would rule the committee amendment as “non-germane.”

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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 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.  In November, 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.

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