Senate rejects enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution

By HOLLY RAMER

Associated Press

Published: 02-15-2024 6:14 PM

Another attempt to enshrine abortion rights in the New Hampshire Constitution failed Thursday, this time in the Senate.

State law prohibits abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy except when the mother’s health or life is in danger or there is a fatal fetal anomaly. The Republican-led House earlier this month voted 193-184 in favor of a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights up to that threshold, short of the three-fifths majority needed to advance the proposal.

On Thursday, the Republican-led Senate rejected a similar measure outright, voting 14-9 along party lines against a more broadly worded proposal to add language to the constitution protecting “personal reproductive autonomy.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022, voters in seven states have either protected abortion rights or defeated attempts to curtail them in statewide votes.

New Hampshire does not allow citizen-led ballot initiatives. Changes can be made to the state constitution if three-fifths of the Legislature agrees to put the question to voters, who must then approve amendments by at least a two-thirds majority.

Sen. Becky Whitley, a Democrat from Hopkinton, argued that the state’s current absence of restrictions on abortion before 24 weeks does not equal an affirmative right.

“I rise for the little girls ahead of me who now have less rights than I have, rights that led me directly to this chamber, and helped me build a career a family and life of my choice and of my dreams,” she said.

Sen. Bill Gannon, a Republican from Sandown, said voters already have made their views clear by electing their representatives.

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“This Legislature has been crystal clear and consistent when it comes to abortion rights,” he said.

The Senate also was taking up bills Thursday to expand access to medication-assisted abortions and to prohibit New Hampshire police from assisting with out-of-state investigations into “legally protected health care activity.”

The House has rejected some measures to restrict abortion, including a ban on the procedure after 15 days of pregnancy. That would be akin to an outright ban as virtually no one knows they are pregnant at that point.

Another rejected measure would have required abortions after 15 weeks to be performed with two doctors present and in hospitals with neonatal intensive care units.