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NH News

Bills to further limit abortion rights in N.H. taken up by House committee

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Allegra Boverman for NHPR
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Abortion policies in New Hampshire remained largely static for two decades, until last year, and with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule this spring on a case out of Texas that could overturn Roe v. Wade, those policies are getting lots of attention.

Last week, the GOP-led New Hampshire Senate voted to limit the ultrasound mandate included in the state's new 24-week abortion ban that took effect in January. But the Senate voted almost exclusively along party lines to block efforts by Democrats to permit abortion without restriction in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal anomaly.

The rejected exceptions to the 24-week ban were also backed by Gov. Chris Sununu, who has always identified as “pro-choice” but who has repeatedly defended the abortion limits he signed into law in 2021 as part of the state budget as “common sense.”

Sununu says he favors no further limits on the procedure.

These new bills, written by Republicans, would create additional curbs that opponents say could reduce abortion access dramatically in New Hampshire.

One bill would allow prospective fathers to seek a court order blocking a woman from having an abortion.

“We are protecting the father’s right to have a say, to protect the life he’s created,” Rep. Walter Stapleton of Claremont told the committee.

As drafted, the bill would require men seeking to block a woman from having an abortion to pay for prenatal care not covered by the mother’s insurance, and pay her $250 per month for the duration of the pregnancy. The proposal would allow pregnancies caused by rape to be terminated but only in cases when a rape had been reported prior to a man’s paternity claim.

“Let me tell you, the first thing a person who has been raped thinks about is whether that person will come back again,” said Sara Smith of Pembroke, who said she was raped as a college student. “This bill makes that nightmare come true.”

The committee also took input on a bill to ban abortion in all cases after fetal cardiac activity is detected. If enacted, the law would essentially ban abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions in case of rape or incest.

“It’s not really a pro-life bill; it’s an anti-pro-death bill,” said Rep. Dave Testerman, of Franklin, the bill’s sponsor. “I believe that we need to have a bill that clearly states we do not approve of murder in the womb.”

The proposal is similar to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, including the Texas law now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dr. Charlotte Hastings, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock OBGYN resident, told the committee she’d originally been assigned to a hospital in Texas, where she treated girls who gave birth at 13 because they never knew they were pregnant until after they were barred from seeking an abortion. She said the experience spurred her to relocate here.

“I don’t want New Hampshire to become Texas.” Hastings said.

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