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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Legislature bans late-term abortions, approves ‘early offer’ medical malpractice program

CONCORD – Late-term or so-called partial birth abortions became illegal in New Hampshire after the Legislature passed the law Wednesday over the veto of Gov. John Lynch.

These abortions have been against federal law since 2007.

Lynch maintained the state ban was more onerous because it required the support of two physicians to endorse an exemption to the ban because of risk to the woman’s health.

Starting next Jan. 1, any physician who performs a late-term abortion could be charged with a felony and face up to 71⁄2 years in prison.

Abortion rights supporters maintained these abortions had not been performed in the state for years.

The House and Senate voted by a two-thirds majority to adopt the law. A year ago, this same Republican-dominated Legislature overcame a Lynch veto to require that a minor girl notify a parent or guardian before she could get an abortion.

The House failed, however, to make it a felony crime for someone to violently or negligently cause the destruction of a fetus 8 weeks or older.

The House again endorsed the fetal homicide measure (HB 217), 201-126 but that was 16 votes shy of the two-thirds benchmark to overcome Lynch’s veto.

Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester, noted more than 35 states have laws that grant some legal rights to a fetus.

“This is a matter of simple justice; it is overdue in our state,” Souza said.

Lynch said he could support permitting prosecutors to charge someone with murder or negligent homicide if the affected fetus reached the point where it could survive outside the womb.

He maintained women who are pregnant miscarry one in four times after the fetus is more than 8 weeks old.

Souza mocked Lynch’s objections.

“The governor talks about not enough protection for the woman. I ask you, what do we have now? None,” Souza declared.

Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, said this bill was badly flawed. A woman in a coma after a serious accident would have to consent to aborting the fetus to save herself, she said.

“An unconscious woman cannot request medical help,” she added.

The following is a summary of other actions the Legislature took Wednesday on vetoes from Gov. John Lynch. To become law, the House of Representatives and state Senate had to override that act by a two-thirds majority.

Medical malpractice reform (SB 406) becomes law: This “early offer” measure makes New Hampshire the first state in the country to have a state-sponsored, voluntary option that lets victims accept a cash settlement for their injuries and avoid a trial.

Medical marijuana (SB 409) dies in Senate: New Hampshire would have joined Vermont, Maine and more than a dozen states that make it legal for the seriously ill to obtain marijuana for pain.

J.D. Salinger Bill (SB 175) dies in Senate: Heirs would hold the rights to someone’s image, face or voice for 70 years after their death. Critics note it removed exemptions for the media and entertainment industries.

Trust Tax Break (SB 326) becomes law: This will reduce what out-of-state residents who are trustees of New Hampshire-based trusts have to pay under the Interest and Dividends Tax. Supporters maintain it will encourage growth in New Hampshire trust business and not reduce net state revenues.

State worker contracts (HB 1666) dies in House: The Legislative Fiscal Committee would have been able to veto any contract negotiated by employee unions and state government managers.

Constitutional delegates (SB 356) dies in House: This would have created an explicit oath for delegates to a state convention voting on amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).