Republicans sponsor two bills to limit, criminalize late-term abortions in N.H.

Citizens Count
Published: 1/23/2021 4:51:34 PM

Republican representatives are sponsoring two 2021 bills that would limit and criminalize certain late-term abortions.

If either of these bills passes, Gov. Sununu will be pressed to affirm his “pro-choice” stance.

Ban at 24 weeks or ‘viability’

HB 625, sponsored by Rep. Beth Folsom (R-Wentworth) and seven other legislators, would ban abortion at or after 24 weeks gestation.

HB 622, sponsored by Rep. Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont) and three others, would prohibit abortion “to terminate the life of a viable fetus.” The bill does not specify an exact gestational age at which a fetus becomes “viable,” but the bill states, “Due to the advancement of medical technology, viability in Planned Parenthood v. Casey was considered to be about 23 or 24 weeks, rather than the 28 weeks previously held in Roe v. Wade in 1973.”

Both bills include an exception if carrying to term poses a serious health risk for the mother.

HB 625 and HB 622 also require health care providers to report some information about late-term abortions to the state.

Both bills also carry a felony penalty for health care providers who violate the law. HB 625 also allows a fine up to $100,000 for the provider.

Arguments for and against late-term bans

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 30 states ban abortion at 22 weeks, 24 weeks, or “viability” – including Maine and Massachusetts.

When the New Hampshire House considered a similar bill in 2018, HB 1680, Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) wrote, “This is about the values that define us. We see potential in every life – including the pre-born, and we recognize that the pre-born has been endowed by her Creator with the inalienable right to life.”

Opponents argue that these bills interfere in the relationship between doctor and patient. Opponents also note that late-term abortions are very rare.

Dr. Ellen Joyce, the New Hampshire Chair of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, testified against HB 1680 in 2018. She wrote, “(This bill) denies physicians the ability to provide the care that is medically indicated, interferes with the confidential relationship between women and health care providers, and would only serve to undermine compassionate patient care.”

Could N.H. pass a ban on late-term abortions in ’21?

For several years New Hampshire legislators have sponsored bills to restrict abortion in the second or third trimester, but none have become law.

Last year, Citizens Count asked state candidates if they would support a ban after 24 weeks’ gestation. Forty-three current legislators responded they were undecided or hold a more nuanced position. That is enough of a margin to make the future of HB 625 and HB 622 uncertain in 2021.

If either bill passes, it may face a veto from Gov. Chris Sununu. Sununu identifies as pro-choice. However, he once voted against a Planned Parenthood contract while serving on the Executive Council, and many Democrats are suspicious of his stance on abortion.

The House Judiciary Committee has yet to schedule public hearings for HB 625 and HB 622.

Citizens Count is a nonprofit serving the New Hampshire community by providing objective information about issues, elected officials, bills, elections and candidates. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.


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