The Bulletin Board

Sununu signs fatal fetal anomaly bill, rejects repeal of abortion clinic buffer zones

By: - May 31, 2022 11:45 am
State House

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed House Bill 1625, which would have repealed a law allowing abortion clinics to keep the public up to 25 feet from their entrances. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Terminating a pregnancy after 24 weeks for a fetus that cannot survive on its own was a crime last week that could have sent a physician to prison for 7 years and fined them up to $100,000. It no longer is.

Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Chris Sununu announced via a press release that he had signed 29 bills into law and vetoed four. Among the 29 signed was House Bill 1609, adding a fatal fetal anomaly exception to the state’s 24-week abortion ban. It took effect Friday. 

Sununu vetoed House Bill 1625, which would repeal a law allowing abortion clinics to keep the public up to 25 feet from their entrances. No clinic has used the “patient safety zone” law. But they told lawmakers they wanted to retain the option as anti-abortion protestors have become increasingly hostile and aggressive. 

“In the eight years since this law was originally enacted, we know of no instance where an individual or group has been harmed by it,” Sununu wrote in his veto message. “As a result, I am not looking to make any changes at this time.”

Other bills failed this year that would have added exceptions for rape and incest and dropped the criminal and civil penalties against physicians who violate the law.

The governor’s action on both bills was expected: He had urged lawmakers to add the fatal fetal anomaly exception and told the Bulletin in early May he would veto the repeal of the patient safety zone if HB 1625 reached his desk.

But it was uncertain whether legislation adding the fatal fetal anomaly exception would make it to Sununu. 

The Senate rejected the measure in February and most House Republicans fought it until late March, when Rep. Jess Edwards, an Auburn Republican, urged his caucus to support it. In doing so, Edwards cited the stories from women who testified about making the “impossible decision” to terminate late in their pregnancies after getting a fatal fetal diagnosis. 

Kayla Montgomery, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, issued a tempered response to the passage of HB 1625.

“To be clear – while this law restores options for families in complex circumstances, it does not expand access to abortion care. It fixes a problem created by anti-abortion lawmakers,” she said in a statement. 

“Real Granite Staters were harmed by the Legislature and governor’s refusal to listen to medical providers and patients last year and insistence on pushing through this abortion ban in the state budget process. The public outcry since this cruel abortion ban took effect has been deafening and all lawmakers should be listening as they consider future efforts to restrict access to abortion care.”

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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]