Panel Hears Bills To Drastically Limit Abortion, Or Enshrine It as Constitutional Right

Print More


The House Judiciary Committee met in Representatives Hall Wednesday to hear three abortion-related bills.


CONCORD – Three abortion bills, including one that would be the most restrictive in the nation by limiting access after 15 days of pregnancy – were heard before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

The day-long hearing in Representatives Hall ranged from a Constitutional Amendment that would provide the right to an abortion prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy; a bill that would place new restrictions for those who perform an abortion after 15 weeks by requiring it to be in a hospital with two doctors present, and House Bill 1248 restricting abortion to 15 days from conception.

The three bills:

 CACR 23; relating to the right to abortion. Providing that all persons shall have the right to abortion prior to 24 weeks.

 HB 1248, relative to restrictions on access to abortion to 15 days from conception.

 HB 1541, relative to conditions for an abortion performed after viability or 15 weeks gestation.

Testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition to HB 1248 from state representatives, activists, and New Hampshire citizens.

As proposed, HB 1248 would prohibit abortion other than for a medical emergency if the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 days. The bill defines a medical emergency as a situation in which the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or injury, including those caused by the pregnancy itself and those that would cause “irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman.

There is no mention of exception for instances of incest or rape.

Heather Stockwell, a Healthcare Campaigns Organizer at the Rights & Democracy Project, spoke in front of the committee from her own experience with abortion.

“Abortion saved my life,” Stockwell said. “While we’re talking about life and death and human beings, I am one of the people, women or people who can get pregnant, the people we’re talking about who deserve to have rights, otherwise we are not full citizens here.”

On House Bill 1248 many said a woman would not even know she was pregnant by that time and that it was an effective ban on all abortions.

Liz Canada, advocacy director for Planned Parenthood, called the bill “absolutely outrageous” and a de facto “complete ban on abortion.”

Nicholas Patrick of Dublin opposed the bill saying this goes against the freedom of the state and would be imposed by “an out of touch government.”

Erin Yaeger said the decision should not be legislated. 

“I believe that if men were the ones that were able to get pregnant we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

The committee adjourned at 3:30 p.m. without taking any action on the bills.

Texas, currently the most restrictive in the country, has a six-week ban.

Since Roe v. Wade fell 18 months ago after 50 years of standing as a woman’s right to abortion across the nation, the Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case means each state must decide its own rules on abortion.

The committee was told at least 22 states have acted since the Dobbs decision to limit abortions.

New Hampshire currently has a limit to abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. CACR 23 would enshrine in the state constitution the right to an abortion before 24 weeks.

The measure, if passed by a 60 percent vote of both chambers, would go on the ballot for voters who would decide, and to pass would require a 66 percent vote of the people.

State Rep. Amanda Toll, D-Keene, prime sponsor of CACR 23, said: “I am here with a critical effort that transcends party lines that speaks to the rights of every individual in New Hampshire.”

The constitutional amendment would explicitly protect abortion up to 24 weeks and after that allows doctors to work with their “patients to make these complicated decisions.”

“This constitutional amendment takes abortion out of our hands as politicians and puts it where it belongs – with doctors and their patients,” Toll said.

She mentioned the dramatic shift that occurred when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade meaning all federal protections for abortions have been eliminated.

“While currently safe and legal in New Hampshire, there is no right to an abortion in New Hampshire and lawmakers have refused to take action to make abortion an explicit right. We are one election away from abortion rights being further restricted or even eliminated,” Toll said.

Rep. Bob Lynn, Republican Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, asked about the word “individual,” not woman, in the amendment.

“If you leave the wording that way does that mean that the father has a fundamental right to demand or object to an abortion,” Lynn asked.

Toll responded saying, “This is very clearly written for the patient…It’s your body, your choice.”

House Bill 1541 would limit abortion to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

State Rep. John Sellers, R-Bristol, sponsor of the bill, and the bill limiting abortion at 15 days (HB 1248), said he heard a lot about reproductive rights during the day.

“It means to reproduce. We are not talking about reproducing, we are talking about killing babies,” Sellers said. 

“Abortion is not health care,” he said. “Abortion exploits the woman and kills a preborn life.”

Sellers said that “we might dicker over when life starts” but he believes it starts “day one. The cells start to divide and they already know” the sex of a child.

With abortion, he said, “we’re talking about extermination.”

Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and its action fund, said the organization has seen patients coming from banned states in order to get the care they need and it takes them time to get here.
She estimated about 10 percent of abortion care is for those coming here from out of state, far lower than in states like Colorado and Illinois that are near states with new bans.

Courtney Reed of ACLU said HB 1541 would impact a doctor’s decision making and create harm that is not rooted in medical accuracy.

“This bill is a government overreach,” Reed said, to “prohibit highly qualified and trained providers” from doing their job.

She said it has a disparate impact on certain people and it would only move that disparity in the wrong direction.

Rep. Mary Hakken-Phillips, D-Hanover, warned Republican lawmakers that HB 1248 would drive voters away from the party in her testimony against the bill.

“A 15-day abortion ban will trigger a generational political wave against trusting Republicans to draft public policy, for which the GOP will never fully recover,” Hakken-Phillips said. “Passage of 1248 will be a strategic failure and a colossal mistake.”

Dr. Maris Toland, an obstetrics and gynecology provider at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Bedford, told the committee that most women and healthcare providers would not be able to tell they are pregnant at 15 days—some pregnancy may not have even happened yet at 15 days, she said.

“This doesn’t make any sense when it comes to reproductive physiology,” Toland said.

Toland also said that this ban would push healthcare providers out of the state, while limiting those in-state from providing safe, accessible reproductive care.

“We know that abortion is an evidenced-based essential component of reproductive healthcare and to not have that option puts patients at significant risk,” Toland said.

Comments are closed.