CONCORD – On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at 1 pm, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings 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.
The hearings take place just days before the 49th, and possibly last, anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22. Currently, two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court pose an unprecedented threat to abortion access nationwide. Decisions in these cases are expected by June 2022, and would result in 26 states moving to ban or deeply restrict abortion access – that’s 36 million, or nearly half of U.S. Women of reproductive age – who could lose abortion access.
Statement from Kayla Montgomery, VP of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:
“We are in a crisis moment in our country – nearly half of a century of legal precedent is about to be upended in the U.S. Supreme Court. We need New Hampshire solutions to protect and expand access to abortion care. We urge the New Hampshire Senate to fully repeal the abortion ban and ultrasound mandate and pass the Access to Abortion-care Act because every Granite Stater should have access to the health care they need – including abortion – without government interference.”
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 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.
- 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.