New Hampshire lawmakers consider anti-abortion bills

  • New Hampshire Rep. Katherine Prudhomme O'Brien gets a hug after telling her experiences in the foster care system and of her support of HB 1640, the Parent Notification Bill at the State House on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Darlene Pawlik was once ensnared in sex trafficking in her teenage years testifies for the passage of House Bill 1640, Parent Notification Bill at the State House on Wednesday, January 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A person wears a costume from the series 'The Handmaid's Tale' during testimony at one of the abortion bills up at the State House on Wednesday, Jamuary 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Associated Press
Published: 1/29/2020 3:32:16 PM

New Hampshire is among the least restrictive states when it comes to abortion, but lawmakers are considering a package of bills that would swing it far in the other direction.

Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists across the country have been pushing near-total bans on the procedure, hoping the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court will reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The New Hampshire Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday on four anti-abortion bills, including one that would ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

“To say life doesn’t begin until a child is born is not correct, it’s misguided and it’s dangerous,” said Rep. Walter Stapleton, R-Claremont, one of the bill’s sponsors. “The most dangerous place today in America is the womb.”

Similar laws in other states have been blocked by courts, and the same would happen in New Hampshire, said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter. She and other opponents said taken together, the proposed legislation would make obtaining an abortion so difficult, the right to abortion might as well not exist.

“The bills being heard today perpetuate dangerous myths about abortion that we’ve seen pursued in other states. They also defy New Hampshire’s longstanding bipartisan support for reproductive health care,” she said. “Passage of such legislation would serve only to burden New Hampshire taxpayers with costly litigation.”

A second bill would specify that infants that are “born alive” be treated as legal persons under state law and would subject doctors to criminal charges for not providing them with medical care. A third would prohibit abortions in the basis of gender or genetic abnormalities, and the fourth would require parental notification before minors get abortion. New Hampshire has a parental notification law, but it allows teens to bypass telling their parents by getting a judge’s permission. The new proposal would eliminate that bypass option.

Democrats control both chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature, and similar bills have failed even when Republicans held majorities.

Jennifer Albee told the committee she came close to getting an abortion at age 24, but was glad she had her now 11-year-old son and his three siblings, one of whom accompanied her to the hearing.

“We are all at different stages of our life. I’m an adult. My son back there is a child, but we all had that heartbeat,” she said. “This is not about women’s rights, this is about human rights.”

But Annie Johnson told lawmakers that getting an abortion after she was raped saved her life.

“I was able, because of Planned Parenthood, to reclaim control over my life,” she said. “My life mattered. My life matters now, and the millions of women who’ve been put in that position should be spoken for.”

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