By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – A bill that would allow biological fathers to use the courts to stop an abortion will not be recommended for future legislation.
The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted 12-7 to not recommend the legislation, HB 1181, from the pile of studied bills they still have to report out in November.
They did recommend a bill to go forward related to the Commission on Human Rights, but the most controversial bill was on abortion.
State Rep. Kurt Wuelper, R-Strafford, said a father should have the same reproductive freedom rights as the mother.
State Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, while voting not to recommend the particular legislation to the next legislature, noted that someone will likely put in a new bill on the issue anyway.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu would have vetoed the bill if it got to his desk, his spokesman said in an email to InDepthNH.org Monday.
Sponsored by state Rep. Jeffrey Greeson, R-Wentworth, who is running for re-election, House Bill 1181 first went to study in March and no recommendation was made before the meeting was held Tuesday.
It never made it to the Senate.
State Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, urged the committee to not recommend it. Smith said since June there had been some national developments related to reproductive rights, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade which eliminated the federal right to an abortion and left it up to the states to determine what rights are allowed.
New Hampshire, she said, has historically “adopted the classic libertarian philosophy that government does not belong in its citizens’ private lives. And this is one more example where the person most central to the issue should be able to decide who to consult, who to involve, and who to help make decisions that affect her life and her future. And she might very well choose to have her partner, her spouse perhaps, her religious leader, and certainly her medical provider involved. But I don’t think there is room for 424 legislators in the decision and so that is why I believe it is not ready for, not appropriate for further action,” Smith said.
Wuelper disagreed, saying the bill is about the government staying out.
“That’s the point of it is to allow the father who is one of the two parents to have some say in the life of the child. And the bill before us as it was written recognized that the mother’s rights were pre-eminent and the father’s rights were subservient but the father should have rights,” Wuelper said, “The father should have the same reproductive freedom if you want to call it that, as the mother.”
Voting with Wuelper were Republican Reps. Louise Andrus, R-Salisbury, Dawn Johnson, R-Laconia, Diane Kelley, R-Temple, Mark McLean, R-Manchester, Troy Merner, R-Lancaster, and Mike Sylvia, R-Belmont.
Rep. Alexis Simpson, D-Exeter, released the following statement after the vote:
“While I am relieved that HB 1181 was not recommended for future legislation today, this bill allowing men to block access to abortions by Court injunction shows how far Republicans will go to attack reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
“For the past two years, Granite Staters have witnessed repeated attempts by Republicans to inappropriately meddle in the patient-doctor relationship. After sneaking New Hampshire’s first abortion ban into the 2021 state budget, Republican leadership tried to pass extreme legislation that would ban nearly all abortion care this year.
“The people of New Hampshire respect privacy, bodily autonomy, and individual rights. Extreme abortion bans have no place in the Granite State. To combat these attacks and enshrine needed protections into law, I have filed the Access to Abortion-care Act for the 2023 legislative session. Granite Staters deserve better, and House Democrats are ready to pass these needed protections into law.”
A statement by Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire Action Fund called the bill an “outrageous attack on bodily autonomy and abortion access that would allow any man in New Hampshire or across the country, without first proving paternity, to intervene in a pregnant person’s seeking of abortion care by petitioning the courts.”
Most of the seven Republicans who voted to support the legislation going forward are running for re-election this fall though Sylvia was eliminated in the primary.
Liz Canada, advocacy manager for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, said
“Let’s be clear – the decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions we can make. Pregnant people deserve to make these decisions for themselves, in consultation with their loved ones and health care providers. While we are grateful this legislation will go no further, it is unconscionable many state representatives believe there is anything warranted in allowing judges, rapists, sexual partners, or even strangers to make personal medical decisions for women and pregnant people. This forced pregnancy bill is a stark reminder of what’s at stake in the upcoming elections. Before November 8, we urge Granite Staters to learn where their candidates stand on bodily autonomy and privacy rights.”
The meeting was the last at which state Rep. Ned Gordon, R-Bristol, presided as chair as he is not running for re-election. He was thanked by his fellow committee members for his service.