Family Planning in NH
By: LFDA Editor
The New Hampshire Legislature has continued to work through a variety of bills regarding family planning in the state, many of which are controversial throughout the political spectrum.
Women’s Right to Know Act: HB 1659, was passed by the House with amendment, but stalled and was ultimately killed by the Senate on April 25, 2012. A 2013 revamp of the act, HB 483, was rejected by the majority of the House in March.
Also new for 2013, HR 6, affirming the principles of the 40-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, was laid on the table by the House's Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.
The Women's Right to Know Act was to establish that abortions may only be performed when the woman’s consent is “voluntary and informed.” This statute requires that the physician at any abortion facility:
• Provide a description of the abortion method to be used
• Explain the medical risks associated with abortions, both in the short- and long-term
• Offer alternatives to the planned abortion
• Estimate the gestational age of the unborn child
The woman must hold to a 24-hour “reflection period” after this information is provided before she can proceed with the abortion.
HB 217, approved by the House on Jan. 4, 2012, and passed by the Senate on May 16, added the killing of a fetus to the state’s homicide statute. This law, as amended, would have exempted any medical procedure, including abortion, performed by a physician or other licensed medical professional at the request of the pregnant woman or her legal guardian, or to the lawful dispensation or administration of lawfully prescribed medication.
The law looked to assign “personhood” to a fetus that is more than 8 weeks of gestational age. There are 37 other states that have a similar law assigning personhood to fetuses, and some fear that the legislation is a back-door way of chipping away at reproductive freedoms. Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill on June 18.
Parental Notification: HB 329 prohibits abortions from being performed on minors without 48 hours’ notice to a parent or guardian, unless the child is in an emergency situation, while also including a waiver for certain outlined circumstances. The governor’s veto was overridden by both the House and the Senate and went into effect January 1, 2012. Read the LFDA’s Parental Notification issue page.
In addition to the proposed and passed laws, the state has ended a two-year, $1.8 million contract that funded Planned Parenthood’s services in the state (which serves more than half of the state’s people using family services) because the organization also offers abortions (about 3 percent of its overall services). The federal government has since stepped in to offer additional funding to the organization, despite the argument that its support opens up other funds to be used for abortion.
Under New Hampshire law since 2000, health insurance plans provided by employers are required to cover contraceptives. SB 356 proposed an exemption for religious organizations (ones owned by or operating as a religious society), allowing these organizations to limit insurance plans to disallow contraceptive coverage. The provision was tacked onto the original, unrelated bill governing religious societies’ rules. Supporters of the bill said that forcing a religious entity to fund contraceptives may be against the organization’s religious beliefs, while opponents said the provision was too broad, allowing organizations that don’t necessarily have a religious background to begin refusing contraception coverage, and that it suggests government interference with the medical decisions of employees. The provision was removed from the bill, which eventually passed.
A similar measure, HB 1546, was sent for interim study on April 25, effectively killing it.
On June 27, 2012, the House and Senate overrode Gov. Lynch's veto on HB 1679, effectively banning partial-birth abortion practices.
On August 1, 2012, under the Affordable Care Act, eight new insurance policies covering women's health went into effect and will affect 230,000 women in New Hampshire, according to the Union Leader.
In May 2013, the FDA approved the morning-after pill to be available without a prescription to teens over the age of 15.