Anti-abortion bill would drive out healthcare providers, doctors say 

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 3/30/2021 3:28:26 PM

An anti-abortion law proposed by Republican lawmakers would needlessly torment the mothers of gravely ill children and drive much needed specialists out of the state, doctors argued at a Senate Judiciary Committee held Tuesday afternoon. 

The bill, HB 233, requires that health care providers take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to the preserve the life and health” of a newborn infant. Proponents argue the bill ensures health care providers give life saving treatment to infants who survive late-term abortions. Others fear this legislation would interfere with the grieving process for families of fatally ill newborns.

The bill advanced from the House in late February after Democrats left the chamber in protest and the house speaker locked them out, easily allowing Republicans to get a two-thirds majority.

The prime sponsor, Rep. Jordan Ulery, a Hudson Republican, said the legislation protects the life of infants, citing an instance of an unlicensed medical school graduate in Pennsylvania who delivered unwanted babies during the third trimester and then killed them. 

“This is common sense legislation that makes it clear for the child be born alive, that that child has to be treated with humanity,” he said. 

Critics said infanticide is already illegal and this would only serve as a redundant measure that would make mothers of fatally ill children an unintended victim. 

“This bill tries to fix a problem that I think is not there,” said Rep. Rebecca McBeath, a Portsmouth Democrat. 

This bill, dubbed the "Born Alive” bill, has been met with staunch opposition from health care providers and abortion rights advocates. More than 30 people signed up to speak at the committee hearing Tuesday.

Valerie Valant, a resident obstetrician/gynecologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said just a couple of hours before she testified at the committee meeting, a woman in the emergency department gave birth to a 19 week baby who, while alive, would die within hours. 

“The child died in her arms,” she said. “If this bill was in place… she perhaps could have been rushed to intensive care and done unnecessary treatment and (the mother) would never see the fetus. I think this is completely inappropriate and just incredibly cruel.” 

Critics have also warned about the impact the legislation would have on doctors, who could face a minimum sentence of seven and a half years in prison for violating the law.

Advocates from Planned Parenthood have argued this legislation would pit health care providers against each other. The nonprofit said a disagreement between providers about what is deemed “medically appropriate” could result in a colleague filing a report with law enforcement. 

Ilana Cass, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock feared the legislation could even deter physicians from practicing in New Hampshire, further exacerbating a hospital staffing crisis. 

There are eight neonatologists across the entire state, said Barry Smith, an obstetrician that has practiced in New Hampshire since 1970. If passed, this bill would disrupt a fragile ecosystem that relies on a handful of highly specialized doctors. 

“If a bill goes through like the one that’s been proposed...why would they want to come practice here?” he asked. “Obstetrics is a team sport and if you want to destroy the team, just have one person picking at the other seeing who’s going to get in trouble.” 

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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