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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Objection key in anti-abortion bill

CONCORD – Anti-abortion advocates and like-minded legislators pressed Tuesday to allow medical providers to be conscientious objectors for abortion or other controversial procedures.

New Hampshire should not stand out as one of only three states that does not let doctors, pharmacists or other practitioners refuse to take part in treatment such as abortion, artificial birth control, human cloning, euthanasia or assisted suicide, anti-abortion advocates said.

“Conscience is something that ultimately resides in the individual, and it must be respected,” said Ellen Kolb with Cornerstone Action, a socially conservative special interest group based in New Hampshire.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and other groups claim that the bill, HB 1653, fails to assure patients will get care without delay or harm if a medical professional bows out.

“The religious beliefs of the employee are afforded all the protection, and the needs of the patients and the health care employer are unrecognized,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Planned Parenthood’s senior policy adviser. “That policy priority is bad for health care, bad for business.”

Vermont, Alabama and New Hampshire are the only states without some freedom of conscience for medical providers.

Daniel McConchie with Americans United for Life said the N.H. Constitution recognizes an individual’s freedom to their own point of view.

“This is the kind of right that safeguards the principle of the New Hampshire Constitution, no provision should be preventing the freedom of conscience as it is critical,” said McConchie, a bioethics expert who is the anti-abortion group’s vice president of governmental affairs.

Claire Ebel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, said giving medical providers this freedom should not come at the expense of the patient’s rights.

“Individual patients have the right to expect medical care and medical treatment,” Ebel told the House Judiciary Committee. “If you, as a provider, are not going to provide certain treatment or care, you must include in this bill the absolute requirement that the provider notify the patient prior to establishing a relationship with the patient.”

This bill was one of four anti-abortion measures the House panel heard Tuesday.

Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, wrote a measure, HB 1659, to compel abortion providers to warn those seeking services about the medical risks of the procedure and the potential link to breast cancer and complicated future pregnancies.

The so-called Women’s Right to Know Act would also place a 24-hour waiting period for this information to be dispensed before an abortion could be performed.

Notter said she would erase the six-figure government cost from the bill by allowing the information be posted on the Web rather than given out in DVD form to women at these clinics.

“There are so many girls out there who have an abortion without knowing all the facts,” Notter said.

Frizzell, with Planned Parenthood, said the bill would give “unfounded information” to patients and the 24-hour waiting period is a potentially dangerous risk to pregnant women.

“Similar laws have been overturned in other states where courts have found the 24-hour waiting period puts an undue burden in the path of women seeking abortions,” Frizzell said.

Another bill heard Tuesday would outlaw abortions except to save the life of the mother after a 20-week pregnancy. Still another bill would ban late-term abortions under all circumstances.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.