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N.H. Senate alters ultrasound mandate but rejects Democrats' push to limit 24-week abortion ban

Allegra Boverman

The New Hampshire Senate voted along party lines Thursday to modify the state’s new ultrasound requirement for abortions.

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But Senate Republicans also rejected Democratic efforts to add exemptions to the state’s 24-week abortion ban and to create a legal right to the procedure in state statute.

The contours of this debate were familiar: Republicans defended the new 24-week ban, adopted as part of last year’s state budget, as reasonable and reflective of the public’s will.

They said the same about their willingness to tweak the ultrasound mandate to require it only when a doctor believed the age of the fetus was close to 24 weeks.

“It’s not political to listen to people, it’s not political to represent people,” said Republican Sen. Sharon Carson of Londonderry, who was the GOP’s point person during the Senate debate.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed the 24-week ban into law, and opposed its repeal. But he also supports eliminating the ultrasound mandate and adding carve-out to the law to allow abortions after 24 weeks in case of rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormality.

Democrats, meanwhile, insist that current law — and Republican unwillingness to permit such exemptions —are a departure for a state that values independence, limited government and privacy.

“It’s simply cruel, it’s unconscionable, it flies in the face of what we, as Granite Staters, stand for,” Nashua Sen. Cindy Rosenwald argued.

While almost every vote on the abortion bills was along party lines, the Senate ended up deadlocked over whether to add a right to abortion after 24 weeks to state law. Democrats raised the specter of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in arguing for such a move.

“I believe you have daughters and granddaughters that you want to protect,” Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka said, “We cannot put our heads in the sand and say, ‘New Hampshire won’t be affected.’”

Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, the Senate’s majority leader, and freshman Republican Sen. Erin Hennessey of Littleton joined Democrats to block GOP efforts to defeat that bill outright.

Deadlocked at 12-12, the Senate then tabled the bill.

But the debate on that bill, and the particulars of the state’s 24-week abortion ban, will continue. The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee is slated to take up similar proposals next week.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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