NH Senate Rejects Constitutional Vote on Abortion and Firearm Law Changes

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Paula Tracy photo

Students from Sant Bani School are pictured Thursday on the Senate floor with Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, left and Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton at right.


CONCORD – A Constitutional Amendment to protect abortion will not go forward to the voters this November as the Senate voted CACR 24 down along party lines Thursday, 14-9.

Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth was excused for the day and not present for the vote.

A similar, CACR 23, failed to get the three-fifths majority needed in a 193-184 vote of the House of Representatives on Feb. 1.

The debate started a contentious day in the Senate over gun access and mental health issues with Republicans maintaining there is no need to change the status quo.

It voted down a bill which would have allowed family members to go to court and get weapons away from those who pose a risk to themselves and others in Senate Bill 360 along party lines, and also rejected criminal background checks for all weapons sales.


Democrats contended that there are no rights to abortion enshrined in state law and that this would protect the state’s women from federal actions that could occur in the future. 

On Jan. 1, 2022, the state moved to a 24-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and in May, 2022 the statute was amended to also include exceptions to allow for termination after 24 weeks for fatal fetal anomalies. 

Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown, asked his colleagues to kill the measure saying that according to Planned Parenthood’s website, “abortion remains safe and legal in New Hampshire.”

The voters, he said, have already spoken on the subject by electing their representatives to the Senate and the measure “only seeks to further divide us.”

He said the language was vague mentioning an individual right but does not say when or who, including men.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said New Hampshire has already passed a “very reasonable” restriction on abortion after 24 weeks of gestation.

“Are we saying that life has no value…right up until the day of (birth)? we are saying ‘no'” with the current law and this would erase that, she said.

Carson asserted there is reproductive freedom and choice up to 24 weeks in New Hampshire.

She said there are 43 states with some limits to abortion. Fourteen states ban it outright. 

“We don’t do that here,” Carson said. “What we did was reasonable. But it has been depicted as a ‘ban’ an ‘outright ban on abortion,'” claiming some are spreading “misinformation.”

Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, said she rose on behalf of women who came before her and fought for a right which seems to be slipping away and “I rise for the little girls” who she said have fewer rights since the Dobbs case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022.

“Granite State women have watched in horror as one in three women have lost access in their home state to an abortion,” Whitley said.

The court in Dobbs placed the issue in front of the state.

“That means us,” Whitley said.

The state has done nothing to enshrine the right to an abortion, she argued.

She said it is important to listen to the voters. This would give them a vote.

“They are told they should just trust politicians,” Whitley said.

Whitley said senators don’t need to support the measure but only support the public’s ability to vote on this issue.

“Granite State women will never truly be equal,” without this constitutional amendment, she said.

Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, asked her if abortion is safe and legal here.

Up to 24 weeks, yes, now, she said, but that can change, Whitley contended.

Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, said she supports the public’s ability to vote on this important subject.

Women have fewer rights and choices since the Dobbs decision, she noted.

Some pregnant women face fear, sadness and have to weigh their medical options if they become pregnant.

“They should have the right to make a decision free of political influence,” Chandley said.

Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, said the body has voted more than three times on the issue of limiting abortion to 24 weeks of gestation and she said CACR 24 “sweeps away everything we have voted on and leaves no abortion restrictions up until the moment of birth.”

Among the states, New Hampshire is at the lower end on restrictions, she said.

“CACR 24 is extreme,” she said.

Sen. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, asked the body to acknowledge the rights and sanctity that “all men are born equally free and independent” and embrace Article 2 of the New Hampshire Constitution “which outlines our natural rights.”

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged,” she said. 

CACR 24, Altschiller said, would add 31 words, beginning with “the right to make personal reproductive, medical decisions is inviolate…”

Pregnancy is the line, she said, where rights are stripped away from women.

And she said there is no caveat or exception to a person’s rights when pregnant, she said.

Keep it off the ballot if you are unwilling to face the majority of the voters, she said.

“Trust the voters,” she said. “Let the voters decide.”

Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, asked Whitley if this is the only way to protect rights in the state from federal overreach?

Whitley said, “yes,” and this is a top issue of people “that’s why we are being responsive to it.”

The fact that both House and Senate versions have failed to meet their high bar for passage means that voters this November will not be asked this question.


A bill which would extend protections to women who come to New Hampshire for an abortion from states which prohibit it was also rejected with Sen. Abbas arguing it interferes with interstate commerce laws.

But Sen. Donna Soucy said New Hampshire providers are scared to do their own job because of a potential for prosecution. She said already there are areas of the state which are “birthing deserts.”

The bill, she said, protects providers.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said this is about healthcare and taking care of our people’s needs.

Sen. Birdsell said the bill was not well written. And Sen. Carson asked if this has ever happened here. She said she does not see the need for it.

Senate Bill 575-FN was ordered killed on a vote of 14-9. 


After both abortion bills were voted down, Kayla Montgomery, vice president for public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said while deeply disappointed by the votes “we are encouraged to see bipartisan support for establishing a state plan to respond to the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Mifepristone”
 in SB 567.

The pill allows for oral medication to terminate a pregnancy.


The Senate also voted along party lines to kill the Democratic-backed Senate Bill 360-FN which would allow family members to petition the court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms if they believe they pose a risk to themselves or others. https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=1928&inflect=2.

At least one Republican called it similar to a “red flag” measure intended to deny Constitutional rights without a clear path to get the weapons back.

Sen. Abbas said he feels the measure needed to be killed. There is a legal due process issue here, he said, which would not be followed if passed and no evidentiary hearing.

He said it would also be hard to get a firearm back.

“There is a mental health issue that needs to be addressed,” in other ways, he said. Instead, he said the state should work to prevent illegal immigrants from bringing drugs here that are used in suicides.

Sen. Whitley argued that this would be a relaxing of the evidentiary rules and still go in front of a trial judge.

“This is not a kangaroo court here,” she said.

Sen. Altschiller said this would be a “speed bump” to slow the process down and give families a resource option to temporarily stand between the household members in crisis.

“They feel helpless,” she said, other than asking for the police to stop by for a welfare check. 

She urged her fellow Senators to take “a courageous, lifesaving vote.” 

Sen. Watters said this is about preventing suicide deaths with firearms. He said the state has above average rates of suicide over the past 10 years and firearms are prevalent here and the most lethal means of suicide.

In cases of poisoning, asphyxiation and drug overdose, there are better chances to recover, he said, from a suicide attempt.

Sen. Carson, who noted her uncle killed himself, said suicide cases are tragic. But she said judges are not psychologists. This bill takes away a person’s constitutional rights and she said it is a “red flag” bill.

Sen. Sue Prentiss, D-Lebanon, said the evidence is overwhelming that this problem exists. As a paramedic, she has responded to homes and roadsides where people took their lives by firearm and many times read the suicide notes and talked to the family members. In many cases, the act did not come as a surprise but they had no way to act to save their life.

“What exactly are we waiting for?” she asked. “We can make a difference here.”

The vote to kill the bill was 14-9. 


A bill which would impose a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm, in SB 577 was killed on partisan lines, 14-9.

Sen. Prentiss said family and friends have told her that these tragedies were preventable with a little bit of time.

But Republicans said it was an infringement on Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Altschiller said there is a balance on rights and we should prioritize the safety of our society.

Carson asked the body what constitutional right are they willing to wait for.

“We don’t wait,” she said. Who would like to see a waiting period for an abortion, she asked.

The bill would be disenfranchising thousands of citizens, she said, who may have reason to protect themselves.

Carson also said that the three days were arbitrary.

“Is a week enough?” she asked.


The Senate voted 14-9 along party lines to pass SB 322 https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=2024&inflect=2 which requires a police chief or another issuing authority to sign a permit to be used out-of-state by residents who are carrying weapons. 

Some officials, with concerns for potential liability, have refused to sign the card, citing liability. The Senate voted to require them to sign the card and is sending it to the House.

New Hampshire is a constitutional carry state, which also allows to carry a weapon without a permit. But that is limited to in-state. 

Sen. Chandley said the bill does not accomplish the intent because there is no process for law enforcement to determine whether the person who wants the permit is suitable. 

There is no offer for immunity in the law, Chandley said. 

She said there is no vetting process, and it is irresponsible to pass this and ask police to put their names on a document attesting to someone’s suitability to carry a firearm without giving them the ability to determine whether that person is suitable.

But it passed 14-9 and now heads to the House.


Republicans also blocked Senate Bill 571-FN from advancing. It would have required background checks prior to any commercial firearms sales.

Democrats, including Sen. Altschiller, said the reality is that guns sometimes fall into the wrong hands.

But Republicans said it would deny people their Second Amendment rights.

She said the bill would close a loophole to safeguard and balance rights.

It failed and was killed also on a vote of 14-9.

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