Legislation aimed at protecting access to abortion rejected by Senate committee

By: - January 27, 2022 10:43 am
Pro-choice protesters hold up signs

One of the bills sought to repeal the 24-week abortion ban and the other to prohibit future restrictions on access. (Getty Images)

A Senate committee rejected two efforts Wednesday attempting to protect access to abortion. 

Senate Bill 399 would repeal the state’s new 24-week abortion ban. The committee voted, 3-2, to remove the repeal and replace it with language clarifying when an ultrasound must be performed during an abortion. Senate Bill 436 would leave the 24-week ban in place but prohibit future restrictions on access to abortion. 

Last week, a House committee took similar steps with House Bill 1609, which makes the same ultrasound clarifications but also included exceptions for rape, incest, the mother’s health, and fatal fetal anomalies.

House Republicans sponsored the bill, and Gov. Chris Sununu urged the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee to pass it. The House majority office, however, opposed it. The committee voted, 11-10, along party lines to remove the exceptions and keep just the ultrasound piece.

Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat, made impassioned arguments Wednesday for both Senate bills to her colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Roe v. Wade.

“I want to be very clear about the state of reproductive rights in the country and in New Hampshire. We are at a crisis moment,” Whitley said. “And as a woman, this is something that I think about daily, hourly, on the minute. I grew up after Roe and I’ve never ever thought in my lifetime we would be in a situation where access to reproductive health would be at risk. But we are at that moment right now. …We need the state-level protections so that abortion remains safe, legal, accessible no matter what happens to Roe, and now is the time to do that for New Hampshire women.”

Sen. Jay Kahn of Keene, the only other Democrat on the committee, was alone in voting with Whitley. He issued a statement following the vote on the bill prohibiting future restrictions on access to abortion.

“I am deeply disconcerted by my Republican colleagues’ rejection of a woman’s right to liberty and self-determination,” he said in a statement after the vote. “This was a simple bill that only went so far as to say New Hampshire supports the right to abortion care. I remain in fervent opposition to the abortion ban and will continue to advocate for a woman’s right to choose and protections for comprehensive reproductive health care.”   

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill repealing the 24-week ban, also addressed the committee’s vote. 

“After hours of testimony, hundreds of emails, poll after poll stating that New Hampshire does not support the Republican 24-week abortion ban, Republicans have chosen to ignore the vast majority of Granite Staters and double down on their deeply unpopular abortion ban,” she said in a statement. “The amendment presented today, gutting SB 399 and replacing it with vague language attempting to clarify their mandatory ultrasound requirement shows that they are not listening to their constituents and would rather stand by their poorly conceived, cruel policy.”  

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]