Reporters & Editors,
Last week, a majority of the Senate Finance Committee voted to insert the language of HB 625, a ban on abortion at 24 weeks with virtually no exceptions, into the state budget. This budget language retains the language of HB 625, which includes adding new restrictions to all abortion. The language in the state budget bans abortion at 24 weeks gestation and threatening providers with up to 7 ½ years in prison. This language also adds restrictions to all abortions, including mandatory gestational age testing at any point in pregnancy prior to abortion care -- an unnecessary, costly, and intrusive barrier, particularly on medication abortion (a safe and effective method of providing abortion early in pregnancy).
Governor Sununu describes himself as “pro-choice” and in the fall said he is “not looking to make any changes” to abortion laws in New Hampshire (see 14:00), yet he has not made a public statement on this abortion ban.
Polling consistently shows how deeply unpopular abortion bans are. Voters across the political spectrum describe abortion bans as “taking away women’s rights and freedoms,” “government over-reach,” and “oppressive.” See below for further information detailing the unpopularity of these bans.
Some important details of this HB2 language:
Virtually no exceptions, including none for fatal fetal diagonisis, rape, or incest:
This abortion ban does not contain any exceptions for the health of the fetus, including in situations of a fatal fetal diagnosis. There are also no expections for rape or incest. The cruelty of these lack of exceptions cannot be overstated. Proponents of this language have suggested that anyone who needs to could access an abortion before this ban’s arbitary 24 week cutoff point. The reality, as detailed in Dana’s story, is there are circumstances where a fatal fetal diagnosis is discovered after 24 weeks. Passage of this language in the budget could mean forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy that she knows will not survive. In addition, there are numerous reasons why people who have experienced sexual assault cannot access the care that they need as early as they would want.
Extremely narrow maternal health exception, which could be found unconstitutional:
In addition, this abortion ban’s extremely narrow maternal health exception could be found unconstitutional. In Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court enumerated that “...medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”
The extremely limited exception in this abortion ban does not include the relevant factors enumerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. This abortion ban only allows for an exception at or after 24 weeks “to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury,” or “when continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
Amended abortion ban creates additional barriers to abortion access:
A criminal penalty of a misdemeanor is now imposed on health care providers who do not conduct -- at any stage in pregnancy prior to an abortion -- multiple tests to identify the gestational age of the fetus, including mandatory ultrasounds. Abortion care early in pregnancy is safe and legal, and this language adds incredibly unnecessary, and costly, barriers to care for both patients and providers.
HB1: NH Family Planning Program:
The current budget also underfunds the NH Family Planning Program by not taking into account the loss of Title X federal funds due to the Trump Administration's gag rule. The Biden administration is working to reverse this policy, but federal funding will not return to the states until spring of 2022 at the earliest. An amendment to fully fund the program and an amendment with a lesser dollar amount were both rejected 5-2. The underfunding of the program creates a substantial loss for health centers who participate in the program, including Federally Qualified Health Centers and could equate to interruptions to patient care.
Even if the final budget fully addresses the funding hole and continues to allow reproductive health centers to participate in the Family Planning Program, the Executive Council votes on all of the individual DHHS family planning RPFs this summer.
Abortion bans are deeply unpopular:
When asked what the experience should be like for someone who has decided to have an abortion, more than 3 in 4 voters say it should be as soon as possible, not judgmental, and without added burdens, and 96 percent say informed by medically accurate information
Americans overwhelmingly support keeping abortion legal: 79% of Americans support the right to safe, legal abortion protected under Roe.
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 11,000 patients at these sites.
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.