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With a challenge to Roe before U.S. Supreme Court, N.H. abortion rights activists seek state-level protections

Allegra Boverman

New Hampshire abortion rights advocates are pushing to undo New Hampshire’s new ban on abortion after 24 weeks set to take effect January 1, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could undo the privacy protections in Roe v. Wade.

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Democratic lawmakers are also pushing to enshrine a right to abortion in state law.

“Now is the time for legislators across the board to stand up for New Hampshire privacy values, and individual freedom, by adopting state-level protection for abortion care,” said Rep. Alexis Simpson, a Democrat from Exeter.

Simpson is the lead sponsor of a bill supporters are calling The Access to Abortion Care Act.

She was one of several lawmakers to join Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of New Hampshire to speak out at a press conference in Concord while the Supreme Court heard Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case out of Mississippi over that state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

“A ruling to uphold Mississippi’s ban would gut Roe’s core holdings, and our right to make fundamental decisions about our health, our lives and futures,” Devon Chaffee, state director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who says he’s pro-choice, downplayed the possible effect of the case this week.

“No, I’m not really paying attention to that case, and we’ll see where it goes, but that case does not decide Roe v. Wade,” Sununu told reporters Tuesday.

“I want to be clear, the State of Mississippi has asked the Supreme Court to not only uphold the 15-week ban but also to explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade,” Kayla Montgomery of Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund said.

Last summer, Sununu signed a state budget that included a 24-week abortion ban without exception in cases of rape incest or fetal anomaly and which required any person seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound.

The Dobbs case isn't the only matter pending before the Supreme Court that could affect abortion access.

In November, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a Texas abortion law that bans abortion after about six weeks and empowers citizens to sue people who they believe to be in violation of it.

The ruling in the Texas case was expected to arrive quickly but has yet to be issued. The ruling in the Dobbs case will likely come in mid-2022. For backers of abortion rights here and across the country, those looming rulings add urgency.

“We don’t know what the legal status of abortion will look like next year,” said Senator Becky Whitley, a Democrat from Hopkinton.

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