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A half dozen bad bills on abortion

For all their rhetoric about reducing the size and scope of government, the Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature seem to have no problem encouraging government to muck around in the personal lives of women and the professional lives of doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers.

It was just two weeks ago that the state's unfortunate new parental notification law took effect. Now, the start of a new legislative session has brought with it a flurry of abortion-related measures. They attack the issue from numerous angles - but attack is the key word. The result of any or all of them becoming law would be the same: making it more difficult for New Hampshire women to exercise their legal right to abortion; playing politics with health care; discouraging medical professionals from providing abortion services; and inserting government between women and their health-care providers.

All of them go too far. And all of them are out of sync with the strong pro-choice sentiments of lawmakers' constituents.

Among this year's crop of bad bills:

• House Bill 228, which would prohibit the state from entering into a contract with Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any organization that provides abortion services - presumably including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. This measure could face a House vote as soon as tomorrow.

• House Bill 1659, the "women's right to know act regarding abortion information."

Under this proposal, 24 hours before performing an abortion, doctors would be required to give patients a slew of information about the procedure - including some of dubious legitimacy. Printed materials required to be provided to women seeking abortions would include this quote: "There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you to carry your child to term, and to assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place her or him for adoption. The state of New Hampshire strongly urges you to contact one or more of these agencies before making a final decision about abortion."

• House Bill 168, requiring the state to compile and maintain induced termination of pregnancy statistics - though the purpose of those statistics is unclear and the privacy protections weak.

• House Bill 1653, which purports to protect from discrimination medical professionals who refuse to participate not just in abortions but also in such procedures as birth control, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction and sterilization.

Does that mean, for instance, that a group like Planned Parenthood would be required to hire a medical professional who opposes the very mission of the organization? The language is sweeping and problematic.

• House Bill 1660, which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.

• House Bill 1679, which prohibits third-trimester abortions and "partial-birth" abortions.

For nearly 40 years abortion has been legal in this country. It's an option that 3 in 10 American women will exercise in their lifetimes. Until now, New Hampshire law has been silent on the issue of abortion - leaving it to women and their doctors to decide what's best.

We urge New Hampshire lawmakers to respect their constituents' ability to make their own decisions about their bodies, their families, their futures. There is no need for government to intrude.

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