The Bulletin Board

Senate passes bill adding fatal fetal anomaly exception to 24-week abortion ban

By: - April 21, 2022 4:19 pm
NH Senate with Sen. Becky Whitley testifying

Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday in favor of House Bill 1609, which would add a fatal fetal anomaly exception to the state’s 24-week abortion ban. It passed, 19-5. Gov. Chris Sununu said he would sign it. (Screenshot)

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would allow women to terminate a pregnancy for a fatal fetal anomaly after 24 weeks without their doctors risking prison time and hefty fines. 

Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday he would sign the bill but added he preferred it included exceptions for rape and incest, and dropped criminal and civil penalties for physicians. Bills seeking those changes to the law failed this session.

“It’s not everything I want to see, but we can go back and try to get some more flexibility down the road,” Sununu said. “It’s a good first step.”

House Bill 1609 passed 19-5, with all but five Republicans voting for it. That outcome looked unlikely until three Republicans said publicly last week that they supported the bill and a fourth said he likely would. In dropping their objections, some Republicans cited the women who testified about their own heart-wrenching decisions to have an abortion late in pregnancy after learning their baby would not live outside the womb. 

The law currently has exceptions only for a mother’s health or life. Doctors who perform an abortion after 24 weeks for any other reason can be imprisoned for up to seven years and fined up to $100,000. 

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Sen. Regina Birdsell, a Hampstead Republican, tried to find support for an amendment that would have allowed physicians to deliver a baby with a fatal fetal anomaly after 24 weeks and prohibit them from ending the pregnancy with an “overt act.” She did not define “overt act.” 

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, urged members to reject the amendment. 

“I truly worry that it would only cause harm to the people who are looking at us right now for clarity,” she said, referring to the women and medical providers who testified on the bill. “The amendment is confusing. It lacks compassion. It only adds to the confusion by attempting to dictate one specific type of procedure but using nonmedical language.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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]