Senate Judiciary Panel Hears Two Abortion Bills

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Paula Tracy photo

State Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, left and Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry , right are pictured at Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.


CONCORD – Pro-life advocates shed tears, recited Biblical scripture, showed photos of abortions and baby onesies and outnumbered doctors and pro-choice advocates in testimony on a pair of bills related to abortion rights Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard hours of testimony over a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties that now exist for doctors performing abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy and one that would affirmatively protect abortion up to 24 weeks in state law.

Those bills House Bill 88 and House Bill 224 passed the House on narrow votes and are likely to be taken up by the full Senate this month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee did not vote on its recommendation but is likely to take action next week.

Gov. Chris Sununu has signaled that he supports the two measures in concept.
In February, members of the House Judiciary Committee had a similar set of hearings on these bills in Representatives Hall which was attended by more than 100 people.

The bills come at an uncertain time for reproductive rights in the state and nation following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the 50-year-old national right to abortion, Roe v. Wade last summer, leaving the limits and decisions up to the states.
Only a year before that, the state put in place its first modern-day abortion ban which now limits the procedure to terminate a pregnancy after 24 weeks, with an amended change to allow for termination for fatal, fetal anomalies.

Ben Safford of Pelham, who has a form of muscular dystrophy, said he has a condition that would be considered a fatal fetal anomaly but his mother, Lori, who also testified, chose to bring him and his brother, also with the same diagnosis, into the world.
She called her children her greatest gifts in life while Ben called abortion an “act of murder.”
Doctors including Dr. Thomas Sherman of Rye, a former state senator who ran for governor, and Dr. Maris Toland said the repeal of the issue as it relates to doctors is about the rare situations where a mother’s life is in danger.
Sherman said the issue is not a partisan one.
State Rep. Alexis Simpson, D-Exeter, a prime sponsor, said previously that these are scary and uncertain times for many who need to consider if and when to start a family.
Her bill, HB 88, says the state cannot further restrict access to abortion more than the current law, restricting it after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

While New Hampshire polls have shown respondents overwhelmingly support abortion rights, a recent NH Institute of Politics poll found the majority of residents support some abortion restrictions, said Jason Hennessey, president of New Hampshire Right to Life.

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