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Testimony Opposing HB 625

Dana Peirce of Yarmouth, ME:

"Hello, my name is Dana Peirce, and I live in Yarmouth, Maine. Yes, my story is that of a Mainer, but if these bans are passed in New Hampshire, my story could easily be of any Granite State woman. Complications in pregnancies don’t stop at borders. I am a wife, a mother of 2 living children, and a veterinarian. I am a Morehead-Cain scholar, and a world champion rower. I am also someone who has had an abortion later in pregnancy. 

On January 25th, 2019, I was 32 weeks pregnant with my son Cameron. That morning, my husband and I, along with our 3 year old daughter, went to what we expected to be a routine ultrasound in a normal pregnancy. I want to recognize that the fact that this ultrasound was routine was doubted by another member of the public during her testimony before the house judiciary committee. I hadn’t thought to explain that, yes, I was incredibly lucky to have been a patient at an ob/gyn practice that conducts routine 32 week growth scans on mothers of advanced maternal age—I was 39 at the time.

In any case, that’s when we found out that Cameron had lethal skeletal dysplasia, the result of a random, rare genetic mutation that occurs during sperm development. It is lethal because babies with this condition cannot breathe outside the womb—their rib cages are too small. Cameron’s femur was also broken, and there was evidence of multiple other healed fractures. 

In short, Cameron was actively suffering, and faced death by suffocation if he managed to make it to term and survive delivery. I cannot really put into words the intensity of anguish and grief that my husband and I felt in those moments, and in the days and weeks that followed. But I must emphasize that my strongest thoughts were that I would not let my son suffer any longer than he already had. 

Unfortunately, our grief was then compounded by the limits on abortion rights in our country. Those restrictions meant that we had to fly across the country and pay $25,000 cash in order to end our son’s suffering. And while I was incredibly fortunate to be able to afford the cost of travel, missed work, lodging, and the fee for the abortion itself, the majority of women in my situation in this country would not have been so lucky.

Bans and limits on abortion later in pregnancy add exponentially to mothers’ grief and suffering. We should instead be making laws to ensure that women facing situations like mine are guaranteed safe, compassionate care and support. Abortion for any reason is a deeply personal decision and should not have anyone involved other than the pregnant woman, her medical team, and any others that she chooses to advise her.

Please join me in trusting and empowering women to make ethical, loving decisions for their own bodies. Please oppose HB 625. Thank you." 

Kelly from New Hampshire:

“We had to make the most difficult choice a parent can make. We thought about what would be the best, kindest thing to do for our child. We decided to terminate because it would be the kindest decision to do for our son, our daughter, us. 

Terminating for medical reasons was the most difficult, heart-wrenching decision I’ve ever had to make in my life. I knew in that moment how lucky I was to have safe, local, medical care and the ability to choose what would be done to me. I didn’t have to go out of state to get the care I needed. When it was over, I hurt like any other parent would after losing a child. Each person is different, each pregnancy is different, and there is no one size fits all solution. It is critically important for women to focus on the decision that is right for her life, her baby’s life, her family’s life, and not have to worry about state laws that don’t take into account complex medical situations.”

Written testimony from Kayla Montgomery, Senior Director of Public Affairs, for PPNHAF and PPNNE:

Reproductive health care should be between a woman and her doctor, without political interference, no matter what. We urge this committee to oppose HB 625. Each pregnancy and each circumstance is unique. That’s why when people are making personal medical decisions, one-size-fits-all laws don’t work. HB 625 bans abortion arbitrarily at or after 24 weeks, no matter the health of the fetus or pregnant person. HB 625 is not based on science or standard medical care. Rather, it is rooted in opposition to safe, legal abortion.

HB 625 would affect women and families who have to make decisions under complex circumstances. Many pregnant women do not receive a serious fetal diagnosis until after the point at which this bill would make abortion unavailable. For those Granite Staters, HB 625 would mean having to coordinate out-of-state travel and countless other hurdles in order to get the care they need. People seeking medical care later in pregnancy deserve our compassion and support — not judgment, and certainly not politicians telling them what to do.

HB 625 threatens providers with a felony and imprisonment. Physicians who are exercising their best medical judgement in what could be a very stressful and time-sensitive moment could face up to seven years in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. This bill is an invitation for intimidation and harassment against medical professionals who treat patients later in pregnancies.

HB 625 also requires all patients, no matter at what stage of the pregnancy, seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, imaging studies, and, potentially, other tests. These costly and invasive tests create another barrier to abortion access, especially for uninsured people and women trying to make ends meet. Polling shows that the vast majority of people support access to safe, legal abortion and oppose these types of restrictions.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible for a person to get an abortion as soon as she decides to. This is in part because politicians have passed laws that put care out of reach or, especially right now, because rapidly changing pandemic protocols may delay care for hospital patients. With so many variables to consider, it is critical that patients and doctors have every medical option available based on their own unique situation.

We trust a patient and their doctor. Period. Making a decision to continue or end a pregnancy can be a complex medical and personal decision. Throughout their pregnancy, a person must be able to make health care decisions that are best for their circumstances, including whether to end a pregnancy. Doctors must be able to provide the best health care for each individual patient. Politicians should not stand in the way of a patient making their own choices about their health.

People must have the freedom and privacy to make decisions about their pregnancy in consultation with their doctors. The state of New Hampshire should not be in the business of policing and documenting any individual’s personal medical decisions. In all circumstances, it is important that people have the freedom to make the best decisions about their pregnancy, in consultation with their doctors, and in the privacy of an exam room -- without interference from politicians.

WE URGE A VOTE OF “INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE” ON HB 625

Testimony Opposing HB 233

Written testimony from Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath, of Exeter, a former hospice chaplain:

Dear Members of the Senate Judiciary,

I write today in opposition to HB233.  

I am an ordained Christian minister, and former hospital chaplain specializing in labor and delivery, and neonatology.  I have accompanied women and families through the joyful experiences of delivering full-term, healthy babies.  I have also accompanied many families through the loss of a desperately wanted child at various stages of pregnancy.   It is a loss that is impossible to quantify until you have been in the room where it happens.

The moments after a child who will not survive is born are excruciatingly sad. They are also deeply sacred. Parents ache for the opportunity to hold their child, name their child, and acknowledge that this child is real for the brief period in which they are in the world.  Sometimes they ask for baptism.  Other times they simply want to hold them.  You haven't seen the depths of love until you've seen the eyes of a parent who holds their child that will not survive for the first time.

This bill would rob parents and families of these sacred, and essential moments.  The grief surrounding the loss of a baby is complicated already.  Stealing those crucial moments from parents to say goodbye, to bond with, and to spend precious moments with their dying child is cruel and unusual.  Particularly so to insist on painful and invasive medical care that will only prolong suffering.  That is not kind to either child, or parents.  That is also well outside the scope of what this legislature should be considering.

Neonatologists, Obstetricians, and the medical staff who work in labor and delivery are profoundly skilled, well trained medical providers.  I trust them to make the best decisions for their patients and their families.  Threats to criminalize the grief of parents, and to possibly prolong the suffering of a vulnerable baby are unconscionable.  It is already illegal to harm a newborn baby in the state of NH.  This bill is dangerous and cruel.  I ask you please to vote inexpedient to legislate (ITL).

Thank you for your time.

Best,

The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath
Exeter, NH 

Nancy from New Hampshire (excerpt):

"Sawyer was then placed on my chest with my husband's arms wrapped around him. He was beautiful. We spent every last moment together as a family. We spent the time memorizing his face, telling him how much we loved him. If I close my eyes and listen close, I can still hear that sweet sweet sound of his little breaths. I kissed him on the forehead and then he was gone. Those minutes with him are the only memory I have of him and I can not begin to describe to you what those moments have done for my emotional and mental healing. I am forever grateful that the medical providers listened to me and my husband and ensured we had the time to spend with Sawyer and make that sweet memory that helps me get through every single day. 

A wise pastor once told me that the greatest pain one could ever experience is the loss of a child. That losing a child takes you to the deepest darkest pits of Hell and you either come back stronger and more fierce than ever, or you stay in those deep dark pits and allow it to consume you. I know that the memories I was able to have with Sawyer ultimately have made me stronger and more fierce. 

I strongly urge you to oppose HB233. I am one of many who has lost and will lose a child. Every parent should have the opportunity to have those last moments and make those memories with their baby so they too can be strong and fierce for their families, their communities, and themselves."

Written testimony from Kayla Montgomery, Senior Director of Public Affairs, for PPNHAF and PPNNE:

This bill truly does not protect anyone.

The claims asserted by the sponsors of this bill are false and are not based in reality. The sponsors of this bill are trying to shame patients and criminalize doctors for a practice that simply doesn’t exist. This bill singles out abortion and threatens health care providers who need the ability to provide the most appropriate care for their patients.

The misleading claim that infants are being left to die by doctors is completely false, offensive, and dangerous. These claims are the same lies and tired rhetoric politicians have been using time and again as part of a national campaign to ban safe, legal abortion. They are again injecting politics into health care in an attempt to threaten doctors who provide reproductive health care. In fact, this bill is based on model legislation drafted by a national anti-abortion group and has been introduced in many other states as part of an anti-reproductive health agenda.

HB 233 interferes with family’s decisions about compassionate care and has real impacts on families in their most devastating moments. Parents could be denied from holding their newborn or have a religious sacrament like a baptism, because medical providers may feel forced to try to take futile measures or face a class A felony, which is a minimum of 7 1⁄2 years’ imprisonment and a minimum fine of $100,000.

This bill criminalizes the practice of safe and compassionate medicine by ignoring the medical decision-making process related to early labor and neonatal resuscitation and neonatal hospice – situations that are complex and heart-breaking. Towards the end of pregnancy, any decision that is made around a woman's health care should be in consultation with her physician, using their professional judgment and acting under ethical and medical guidelines. Doctors providing care under these complicated circumstances need to be able to provide each individual patient with the best possible medical care. Instead, this bill threatens doctors with criminal penalties.

New Hampshire’s medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – New Hampshire chapter, oppose this bill. It’s important to remember that the people spreading this misinformation have one motive in mind -- to ban abortion in this state and throughout the country.

WE URGE A VOTE OF “INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE” ON HB 233

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