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GOP-Backed Abortion Ban To Include Mandatory Ultrasound For All Procedures

Dan Tuohy

A requirement that would force all people getting abortions in New Hampshire to submit to an ultrasound exam remains in the budget deal, after Republican negotiators in the House and Senate blocked a measure to eliminate it.

The budget provision is part of the GOP-backed ban on abortion after 24 weeks.

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Nashua Senator Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat, asked the budget negotiating committee to eliminate mandatory ultrasounds for all abortions, and introduced an amendment to strip the ultrasound provision from the budget.

"Forcing patients to have an ultrasound before even a first trimester abortion is shaming and it is an unnecessary barrier to care,” Rosenwald said. But Republicans on the budget negotiation committee refused to second her proposal, which ended the effort.

“The ultrasound images can be useful to that mother to connect to the baby that’s inside of her so that she’s better able to make a decision as is whether she wants to go forward with the procedure.” Rep Jess Edwards of Auburn, said.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who identifies as supportive of abortion rights, authored the provision that added the abortion ban and ultrasound mandate to the state spending plan. Bradley, a Republican from Wolfeboro, didn’t answer directly when asked about ultrasounds, but said the proposal as a whole reflects the will of House and Senate Republicans.

Abortion-rights supporters say the requirement that all people scheduled for an abortion get an ultrasound is about more than limiting abortion late in pregnancy.

“Ultrasounds are not medically necessary for all abortions early in pregnancy. This is a direct attack on medication abortion, a safe, legal, and effective way to end an early pregnancy,” Kayla Montgomery, vice president for policy with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said.

Right now, 22 states have some ultrasound requirement. Most are in the South and Midwest.

A spokesman for Governor Sununu didn’t respond to requests for comment on the governor’s position on mandatory ultrasounds.

But Sununu, who describes himself as pro-choice, has defended the proposed 24-week abortion ban as “common sense” and in line with most of the country. He noted that all but a handful of states have a gestational age limits for abortion.  During remarks in Rochester on Wednesday, the governor focused on two in particular.

“Massachusetts has this. I don’t see the medical community screaming at Massachusetts. New York, has almost the exact same law,” Sununu told a chamber of commerce gathering in Somersworth.

“Liberal New York and Massachusetts have the exact same type of provisions, but nobody is screaming at them,” Sununu said.

Neither New York nor Massachusetts require ultrasounds before women get abortions. And it’s still unclear whether the ultrasounds for all abortions was even an intentional requirement, or the result of a drafting error.

“I suspect it will come back next year for debate, that’s all I can say at this point,” Senator Bradley said when asked repeatedly if the amendment bearing his name reflected his intent when it came to ultrasounds.

Negotiators have until Thursday to reach a final compromise on the budget plan, before it heads to Sununu’s desk for his signature.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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