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NH lawmakers will consider proposals to protect, restrict abortion rights in 2024

A woman stands at a lectern in the lobby of a building. Behind her are dozens of people. Some hold signs that say "Abortion is a right" and other pro-abortion-rights messages
Paul Cuno-Booth
Democratic Sen. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua speaks about a proposal to protect abortion rights under New Hampshire's constitution during a press conference in Concord on Monday.

New Hampshire lawmakers will again consider competing proposals to either protect or restrict abortion rights next year.

This will be the second legislative session since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, ending protections for abortion under the federal constitution. Earlier this year, a series of abortion-related bills – some expanding access, others limiting it – failed in the Republican-controlled legislature.

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers announced a push to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights.

The proposed amendment would guarantee the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. After that period, doctors would be permitted to perform abortions according to their professional medical judgment.

Abortion is currently legal in New Hampshire up to that point, and with limited exceptions after, but it’s not explicitly protected in state law.

Speaking at a press conference in Concord, lawmakers and abortion-rights advocates said state-level legal protections are critical for preserving access in the wake of Roe’s reversal.

“Since the Dobbs decision in June 2022, we've seen a vast increase in the restrictions on access to abortion” around the country, said Dr. Maris Toland, an OB-GYN with Dartmouth Health. “As a physician and as an obstetrician-gynecologist, watching these changes unfold over the last 18 months has clearly demonstrated the dangers of government interference in personal health care decisions.”

The amendment’s sponsors include 11 Democrats and two Republicans, Reps. Susan Vandecasteele of Salem and Brandon Phinney of Rochester.

Democratic Rep. Amanda Elizabeth Toll of Keene, the lead sponsor, said she’s optimistic the measure will draw some bipartisan support.

Republicans “are also hearing from their constituents how important this issue is to them,” she said. “And some of our colleagues across the aisle, they also have personal connections to this issue as well.”

The proposed amendment has a high bar to clear. It would need the support of 60% of both the House and Senate to get on the ballot in November. Two-thirds of voters would then have to approve for it to become law.

Earlier this year, the House narrowly passed a bill that would have put similar protections into state statute, though the majority fell short of 60%. The Senate rejected the bill, 14-10, along party lines.

Lawmakers expect to file the proposed amendment early next year.

Meanwhile, a handful of Republican lawmakers have put forward a bill that would ban abortions after 15 days, with narrow exceptions for medical emergencies and fatal fetal anomalies.

The measure would effectively ban abortions outright, as virtually no one knows they’re pregnant at that point, according to reproductive health providers.

The bill as written is unlikely to pass the House, which Republicans control by the slimmest of margins. In March, a number of Republicans joined with Democrats to decisively reject, by a 217-110 margin, a measure that would have banned most abortions after about six weeks.

One of the 15-day bill’s original four co-sponsors, GOP Rep. Kristine Perez of Londonderry, has already withdrawn her support, calling it a mistake. In a statement on Facebook last week, she said she thought the bill would restrict abortions after 15 weeks – not days – and the bill does not represent the views of her constituents.

The lead sponsor, Rep. Dave Testerman of Franklin, did not respond to a request for comment. Gov. Chris Sununu told WMUR last week that the bill should be consigned to the “crazy pile.”

Testerman is also sponsoring a bill that would require all abortions after 15 weeks to be done in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit, and in the presence of two physicians.

Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at
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