The Bulletin Board

Sununu says he wouldn’t veto budget over abortion restriction

By: - June 3, 2021 10:43 am
Gov. Sununu gestures while speaking

Gov. Chris Sununu said during the 2020 campaign that he would oppose any abortion restrictions in the state. (Scott Eisen | Getty Images)

Gov. Chris Sununu signaled support Thursday for a proposal to criminalize abortions in New Hampshire after 24 weeks of pregnancy, a major announcement that could smooth passage of the Republican state budget this month. 

In an interview with talk radio host Chris Ryan Thursday, Sununu said he had no objections to the inclusion of the ban in the state budget. 

“So, look, I’m a pro-choice governor, but like most citizens of the state of New Hampshire, I do not think that we should be doing late-term or, you know, these at-the-very-last-minute type abortions,” Sununu said. “That’s all this really touches upon, and I think most people agree that that’s, that’s not appropriate. So, no, I wouldn’t necessarily veto a budget over that.”

The proposed legislation would ban abortions after the 24th week, including in cases of rape or incest. The legislation would carve out exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk.

Senate Republicans added the provision into the budget trailer bill last week. That bill, House Bill 2, contains policy items normally attached to spending proposals in House Bill 1. 

The position is a reversal for Sununu, who said during the 2020 campaign that he would oppose any abortion restrictions in the state. 

“I’m not looking to make any changes on that,” he said in 2020. “I’m a pro-choice governor. I’ve been pro-choice. I’ve supported – whether it’s the Planned Parenthood contracts which are really developed around women’s health issues – since I was in the Executive Council we’ve supported those contacts. I don’t think we’re looking to make any abortion restrictions in this state.”

But on Thursday, Sununu argued the ban on third-trimester abortions was common sense.

“I think fundamentally, again, most people agree that, you know, those types of late-term abortions are not appropriate,” he said. “And even most pro-choice people agree with that as well.”

The comments were the first the governor has made on a critical – and politically divisive – piece of the state budget. And they came an hour ahead of a vote Thursday on the Senate floor over the budget document.

If the body approves the budget, the bill will move back to the House, where it will likely enter a “committee of conference” to hash out differences before it can be sent to Sununu’s desk. 

In a press conference ahead of the session, Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, a Manchester Democrat, rebuked Sununu for his decision.

“Well, I’m glad the governor’s making his position known, because he’s waffled quite a bit on this important issue,” Soucy said. “This isn’t an issue that you can just, you know, at whim decide how you’re going to be. Either you support the rights of individuals to make choices about their own health care or you don’t. It’s that fundamental.”

During his interview Thursday, Sununu praised the Senate budget for its financial components, calling the proposal “a tremendously good budget.”

And he indicated he could support a revised version of the “divisive concepts” bill – legislation that would bar public school teachers and state agencies from teaching certain concepts around implicit bias and system racism and sexism as fact. 

Though Sununu had strongly opposed a House version of that bill, he said Thursday that the Senate overhaul of the bill was an improvement. Senate Finance Committee Republicans added that proposal to the budget bill in late May.

“I don’t know where I stand exactly on the final language,” Sununu said about the Senate update. “I think the language could still change. But I do appreciate that they took that old piece of garbage and threw it away – which we asked them to, and they couldn’t even pass it – and replaced it with something that was more stable.”

Read the full transcript of Sununu’s comments on the budget below:

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.