The amended bill must still go before the full House when the Legislature returns in January. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)
With the support of a Republican lawmaker, the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed, 11-10, an amended bill Tuesday that would eliminate the state’s new ultrasound requirement for all abortions.
The amendment followed a confusing debate over competing language and landed in an unlikely place, House Bill 622, which sought to ban virtually all abortions except when the mother’s health is at risk.
Rep. Joe Alexander of Goffstown was the only Republican to vote with Democrats. “I’m in favor of removing the ultrasound requirement because it is a medical procedure that already happens,” he said afterward. “By removing that, we are able to keep the (24-week) ban in place while also addressing some concerns that were in HB 2.”
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Durham Democrat, eliminated HB 622’s proposed abortion ban and replaced it with a repeal of the ultrasound requirement included in the new 24-week abortion ban passed in House Bill 2.
Smith’s amendment passed only because two Republicans, Rep. Kurt Wuelper of Strafford and Rep. Diane Kelley of Temple, joined the committee’s Democrats to pass it, 12-9. It was not apparent from the debate why either voted for it, and neither could be reached for comment following the vote. Wuelper is vice president of New Hampshire Right to Life.
In arguing for her amendment, Smith said during the meeting: “It might be medically necessary, and if it is, that is a decision that the doctor should make with the agreement of the pregnant woman. What I’m eliminating here is that insulting, invasive violation.”
The amended bill must still go before the full House when the Legislature returns in January.
Liz Canada, advocacy manager for the Planned Parenthood of New Hampshire Action Fund, called the vote a “small step” and said the ban “should be repealed in its entirety.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed the budget with the 24-week abortion ban, has hinted he’d be open to reconsidering the ultrasound requirement. Asked for his position on the committee vote, Sununu’s office said in an email, “Removing the ultrasound requirement is something the governor is very supportive of and looks forward to working with the Legislature to get it done.”
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