CONCORD – On Saturday, January 1, 2022, New Hampshire’s first abortion ban in modern history took effect, restricting abortions at or after 24 weeks gestation, with virtually no exceptions, including none for fatal fetal diagnoses, rape, or incest, and criminalizing doctors.
Concurrently, a new mandate takes effect requiring all people seeking abortion care – regardless of gestational age – to first undergo an often invasive ultrasound. Ultrasounds in the early stages of pregnancy are frequently not medically necessary. The measures were adopted as part of the state budget trailer bill, HB 2, which was signed into law by Governor Sununu in June, 2021.
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation to repeal the ultrasound mandate provision of the law, HB 622.
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:
“This New Year’s Day, the clock turned back for reproductive rights in the Granite State as Governor Sununu’s abortion ban and ultrasound mandate took effect.
Let’s be clear: New Hampshire’s new abortion ban substitutes politics and shame for professional and compassionate medical judgment, criminalizes doctors, and takes options away for families in complex circumstances.
We’re proud to stand with the majority of Granite Staters, medical providers, and patients who oppose this law and urge the Legislature to repeal the abortion ban and ultrasound mandate. However, regardless of how quickly lawmakers work to repeal these cruel measures, real Granite Staters will be needlessly harmed because of the reckless actions of the Legislature and Governor last year.”
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 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.
2022 Legislation Filed:
- Legislation in the House and Senate has been introduced to repeal the abortion ban and ultrasound mandate adopted in HB 2.
- HB622, a retained bill, was amended in House Judiciary to remove the ultrasound requirement and will be on the House floor in early January.
- A floor amendment has been introduced to require an ultrasound to determine gestational age if the provider already knows that the fetus is 24 weeks.
- A constitutional amendment protecting reproductive health has been filed.
- At least three bills filed in the House would further restrict abortion access in New Hampshire (HB1080, HB1181, and HB1477), including a copycat Texas six week abortion ban bill and “allowing the biological father of an unborn child to petition the court for an injunction prohibiting the biological mother from having an abortion.”