Column: Reproductive rights are on the ballot in New Hampshire


For the Valley News

Published: 01-26-2024 5:41 PM

Monday, Jan. 22, marked the 51st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade and a solemn day of reflection for those of us fighting to restore reproductive justice for Granite Staters.

Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe and removed constitutional protections for abortion in June 2022, Granite Staters have been left without an affirmative right to an abortion under state and federal law. For now, abortions before 24-weeks remain safe and legal in New Hampshire. But conservative attacks on choice are gaining ground in cruelty and frequency, underscoring the urgency to codify reproductive health care as a fundamental right. There are no guarantees that reproductive rights in New Hampshire will be protected and every indication that the unceasing attacks on patients and providers will continue.

A survey of activity at the Statehouse this month demonstrates why so many of our fears are being realized. House Bill 1248 was introduced to ban abortions after 15-days of pregnancy, a cruel and impossible deadline for people who do not even know whether they are pregnant. House Bill 1541 was also introduced to ban abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy, an arbitrary time limit that interferes with patients’ private medical decision-making. The Republican-controlled Executive Council voted for a fifth consecutive time against statewide funding for family planning contracts to address women’s cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections and contraception.

Meanwhile, advocates have been working on legislation to strengthen reproductive choice too, including constitutional amendments that would explicitly protect access to abortion in New Hampshire: CACR 23, providing that all persons shall have the right to abortion prior to 24 weeks, and CACR 24, providing that all persons have the right to make their own reproductive decisions. These proposed constitutional amendments would send the question of access to abortion directly to New Hampshire voters, who overwhelmingly agree that medical decisions should be made by patients in consultation with their providers — not by elected officials.

In the Senate, SB 567 would direct the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to issue a report about medication abortion access and opportunities in New Hampshire, in preparation for the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding mifepristone. SB 461 would remove the following line from N.H. state statute RSA 329:49: “Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as creating or recognizing a right to abortion.” SB 575 is a “shield law” that would offer protections for abortion care providers, as well as to out-of-state patients seeking abortion care in New Hampshire, who have traveled from a state where abortion is banned.

HCR 11 condemns the medically unnecessary restrictions being waged in federal court on mifepristone, the first pill of the two-pill regimen of medication abortion. The House State-Federal Relations Committee held a hearing on Jan. 19 and will be voting on this bill in the near future.

Passing reproductive choice legislation and defeating proposed restrictions on abortion will signal to New Hampshire’s obstetricians and gynecologists that we trust their medical decision-making and to Granite Staters that “live free or die” extends to reproductive choice as well.

We encourage people who care about reproductive freedom in New Hampshire to follow these bills in the House and Senate and to follow the Executive Council’s ongoing deliberations on family planning contracts. Planned Parenthood NH and Reproductive Equity Now NH are great sources of information. Testify at hearings in person or email committee members with written testimony, attend a visibility at the Statehouse or create a visibility in your own community, and keep this issue at the forefront this election season by asking questions of candidates and highlighting their positions.

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Reproductive rights are on the ballot this year. The fight for reproductive freedom is far from over, and Joe Biden is the only presidential candidate prepared to expand, not restrict, reproductive rights. Now more than ever, protecting access to abortion and reproductive health care in New Hampshire is up to all of us.

Karen Liot Hill is a longtime Lebanon City Council member and a Democratic candidate for Executive Council. State Sen. Sue Prentiss and state Rep. Mary Hakken-Phillips, both Democrats, live in West Lebanon and Hanover, respectively.