Family Planning in NH
By: LFDA Editor
The New Hampshire Legislature continues to work through a variety of bills regarding family planning in the state, many of which are controversial throughout the political spectrum.
In 2011 the legislature overrode Gov. John Lynch's veto of HB 329
, a bill which prohibits abortions from being performed on minors without 48 hours’ notice to a parent or guardian, with some exceptions. For more information, go to the LFDA’s Parental Notification issue page.
Women’s Right to Know Act
In 2012 the state legislature considered HB 1659, the so-called "Women's Right to Know Act." The Act requires doctors to inform women of the medical details of abortion and alternatives prior to scheduling an abortion. The House passed the bill, but HB 1659 was killed in the Senate. A 2013 revamp of the Act, HB 483, was rejected by the majority of the House in March 2013.
Supporters of the Women's Right to Know Act argue that abortion is a serious medical decision, and doctors should fully inform women about the possible medical and emotional consequences.
Opponents of the Women's Right to Know Act argue that the Act is aimed at intimidating women and includes misleading information. For example, HB 1659 was criticized for requiring doctors to mention a possible link between abortion and breast cancer; that link has been disproved.
In 2011 the Executive Council
voted to end a two-year, $1.8 million contract with Planned Parenthood for family planning services, because the organization also offers abortions (about 3 percent of its overall services). The federal government then stepped in to offer funding to the organization.
After that New Hampshire Right to Life, a pro-life organization, filed a lawsuit charging that the state Board of Pharmacy should have cancelled Planned Parenthood's license to distribute pharmaceuticals following the cancellation of the state contract. Right to Life is focused in particular on the pill RU 486, which is used to induce abortion in the first two months of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood counters that they have been licensed by the state Board of Pharmacy for more than twenty years, and serve more than half of individuals seeking family planning services in New Hampshire.
In January 2014 the Executive Council voted to reinstate the contract with Planned Parenthood.
More than a year later, in August 2015, the five-member, Republican-led Executive Council rejected $639,000 in state funding for Planned Parenthood in response to videos showing organization officials discussing the transfer of tissue from aborted fetuses to medical researchers. The videos became the subject of a national controversy.
The rejected funding for Planned Parenthood was part of $1 million in state contracts with four providers of family planning services, which offer testing for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and contraception consults. The Council did approve contracts with the Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center, and Weeks Medical Center.
Gov. Hassan said the funding cuts will mean diminished services available for state residents. She commented, “I find it very, very troubling that anyone would vote against these contracts just because the national political climate is a little difficult.”
Under New Hampshire law, health insurance plans provided by employers are required to cover contraceptives.
In 2012 the state legislature considered a provision that would allow religious organizations to exclude contraceptive coverage from insurance plans. The provision was added to an unrelated bill governing religious society rules, SB 356
Supporters of the provision said that forcing a religious entity to fund contraceptives may violate that organization's right to religious freedom, if the religion does not support contraception. Opponents said the provision was too broad, allowing organizations that don’t necessarily have a religious background to begin refusing contraception coverage.
The exemption was ultimately removed from SB 356.
In 2012 the state legislature passed HB 217, which added the killing of a fetus to the state’s homicide statute (the bill excluded legal medical abortions). Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill.
Supporters of HB 217 argued that the state has a duty to protect all citizens, including unborn citizens, from crime. Opponents of HB 217 feared that by granting fetuses "personhood," the legislation was a back-door way of chipping away at reproductive freedoms.
Several legislators are sponsoring 2015 bills related to family planning.
Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) is the primary sponsor of HB 194, titled "All People Create Equal Act," which states that life begins at conception. The bill was killed in the House in January.
Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) is the primary sponsor of HB 202, which repeals the ability of registered nurses to dispense noncontrolled prescription drugs in clinics that have a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (such as Planned Parenthood). The bill was killed by the House in January.
Rep. Kathleen Souza is the primary sponsor of HB 403, which repeals the law establishing a protest-free buffer zone around reproductive health clinics. The House passed the bill in a 170-159 vote in March, but it was later tabled by the Senate.
Rep. Keith Murphy is the primary sponsor of HB 595, a bill that prevents abortions beyond 21 weeks and 5 days gestation. The bill was tabled in the House.
Rep. Kathleen Souza is the primary sponsor of HB 629, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to keep an annual statistical report on induced termination of pregnancy.
Rep. Warren Groen is the primary sponsor of HB 677, which prohibits sending any state funds to any health care provider that performs abortions, regardless of whether public funds are utilized for that specific service. The Department of Health and Human Services states this bill would prevent the Department from entering into ANY contract with organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The bill was ultimately voted down by lawmakers in February.
Sen. Andy Sanborn is the primary sponsor of SB 36, a bill to allow pharmacies to dispense oral contraceptives to persons 18 years of age or older without a prescription. The Senate killed the bill in January.
Sen. Regina Birdsell is the primary sponsor of SB 40, which includes fetuses as potential victims under murder statutes. It was passed by the Senate in March, followed by the House in May, but died with the conference committee. HB 560, sponsored by Rep. Leon Rideout, includes fetuses as potential victims under first and second degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and causing or aiding suicide. This bill was passed by the House in March but later died in a conference committee.
Sen. David Pierce is the primary sponsor of SB 42, requiring insurers and employers offering insurance to notify policy holders/employees about the details of contraceptive coverage. The Senate tabled SB 42 in March.
- Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) sponsored HB 1501, a 2014 bill to require licensing for outpatient abortion clinics. The House deemed it inexpedient to legislate in March. Souza also sponsored HB 1502, a bill to collect statistics on abortions in New Hampshire, which was sent for interim study.
- HB 1502 would require the department of health and human services to keep an annual statistical report of each induced termination of pregnancy performed and submit the report to the general court. The report will also be available to the public.
- Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) sponsored HB 1504, a 2014 bill "providing that life begins at conception." The House voted against the bill in March.
- Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster) sponsored HB 1503, a 2014 bill that expands criminal statutes so that fetuses can be considered the victims of crimes. The bill excludes legal abortions and mothers can not be charged under the bill. The House approved the bill, with amendment, in March; the amended version increases the legal penalty for the death of an unborn child only when the mother is also killed. The Senate tabled the bill in April.
- Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) sponsored SB 319, a 2014 bill that would create a "buffer zone" around reproductive clinics that protestors cannot enter. The bill was passed by the Senate on February 19 and passed by the House in May. Gov. Hassan signed it into law on June 10, but the law was put on hold as federal Judge Joseph Laplante waited to hear arguments on its constitutionality following the striking down of a similar law in Massachusetts. New Hampshire's attorney general agreed to not enforce the law in the interim, and both he and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which sued to have the law blocked, were to report any arising developments. The House voted to repeal the law in March 2015, but the bill stalled in the Senate.