Bill would allow a man, without proving paternity, to halt a woman’s abortion

By: - February 11, 2022 11:24 am
A view of the NH Senate chamber

Nearly 3,000 people registered opposition to the bill on the Legislature’s website.  (Amanda Gokee | New Hampshire Bulletin)

In a week where lawmakers heard several bills related to abortion, one stood out enough for longtime Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Durham Democrat seeking to repeal the state’s abortion law, to “congratulate” the sponsor for his novel attempt to do the opposite.

“Usually you say there’s nothing new under the sun,” she said. “But this might be something new.”

House Bill 1181 would allow a man, without proving paternity, to halt a woman’s abortion for weeks or months – and even stop it. It got fierce pushback during a public hearing this week. 

Sara Smith of Pembroke told the House Judiciary Committee of her rape by a man who came in through her window when she was in college more than 40 years ago. 

“Let me tell you, the first thing that a person who has been raped thinks about is whether that person will come back again,” she said. “This bill makes that nightmare come true.” 

Dr. Oge Young, a retired Concord OB-GYN, was equally direct. 

“I practiced obstetrics and gynecology for almost 40 years in Concord,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more ludicrous anti-abortion bill in all my time here.” He continued, “I cannot imagine any of you not opposing this bill.”

Rep. Jeffrey Greeson, a Wentworth Republican who sponsored the bill, said his intention is to protect fathers’ rights just as the U.S. Supreme Court has protected the rights of mothers. 

“No uterus, no opinion is not the law. That’s only been the operating procedure since 1973,” Greeson said, referring to the court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The bill would prohibit a man imprisoned or convicted of sexual assault or a violent crime from seeking a court injunction to stop the abortion. But the bill does make that exemption for men accused but not charged with those crimes or who are facing those charges.

The court process laid out in Greeson’s bill would stop the abortion for weeks, even moths. 

If the mother disputed the man’s paternity claim, he would have to pay for a paternity test and present the results to the court. If the mother said the pregnancy was the result of incest, she would have to pay for DNA testing for herself and the man.

If the man prevailed, he would be required to pay the mother $250 a month for the remainder of her pregnancy for “proper and adequate nutrition” and cover prenatal expenses. 

As of Thursday, nearly 3,000 people had registered opposition to the bill on the Legislature’s website and about 30 had said they support it.

“House Bill 1181 is an outrageous and offensive bill meant to shame, burden, and degrade women seeking abortion care,” said Liz Canada, advocacy manager of Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Josie Pinto, founder and executive director of the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire, told the committee any delays in getting an abortion makes the procedure more risky, expensive, and difficult to get. 

“When I first read this bill, I was horrified. I felt sick to my stomach,” she said. “To think that there’s any possibility that someone other than a pregnant person could be more entitled to what happens to their own body would be setting the most harmful legal precedent.”

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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]