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Thursday, March 15, 2012

House approves bill requiring 24-hour delay for abortions

CONCORD – Women would have to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion and be educated about the physical and psychological dangers of the procedure if a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday were to become law.

Of the three pieces of legislation the House considered Wednesday dealing with abortion, the so-called “Women’s Right to Know Act” attracted the most vocal debate on both sides.

Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, noted 31 states have similar laws that require doctors to hand out information about the dangers that could arise from abortion prior to the procedure.

“In order for women to be in control of their health care, it is essential they receive any and all information about any procedure, including abortion,” Peterson said.

The House passed the bill to the state Senate on a 189-151 vote.

Critics accused the bill, HB 1659, of spreading false propaganda that would delay a woman’s free choice to abort a fetus.

“This is bad medicine and bad public policy,” said Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord. “It puts legislators in the examining room mandating what doctors must say and micromanaging what women should receive in reproductive care.”

On Wednesday, the Republican-dominated House also endorsed a bill to ban so-called partial birth abortions, HB 1679. A third bill, HB 1723, would relax the year-old state law that compels a minor girl to notify a parent before getting an abortion.

Any girl who doesn’t want to have to notify a parent can ask a judge for permission to bypass that requirement. Current state law requires judges to hold such a bypass hearing and make a ruling on it within 48 hours.

The proposed change would lengthen that period to up to five days so judges would not have to decide these cases on the weekends.

The three bills all could potentially face a veto from Gov. John Lynch, who is decidedly in support of abortion rights.

Of the three, only the partial-birth abortion ban got the two-thirds majority required for a bill to become law through an override.

Jennifer Frizzell with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said the 24-hour delay could be especially punitive for women in the North Country and other rural parts of the state.

“Today’s legislation exemplifies the meaning of government overreach into private personal medical care, forcing women who need reproductive health care to watch a government-created video with political propaganda and forcing health care providers to give medically unsound information,” Frizzell said.

Cornerstone Action NH said it had been closely following the measure and challenged the assertion that it in any way interfered with a woman’s privacy.

“We have to wonder about ‘providers’ who think this will interfere with business,” the socially conservative group said in a recent statement. “A woman having an abortion deserves to be offered accurate information so that her choice is truly informed. Women’s health and safety should take precedence over the convenience and habits of abortion providers.”

The proposed state ban on partial-birth abortions, or those done in the third trimester of pregnancy, would have New Hampshire join 18 states with such restrictions.

Rep. Jeannine Notter, R-Merrimack, said such a late-term procedure was “exceptionally barbaric” and state protection is needed. There is already a federal ban on such abortions, but Notter argued that isn’t enough.

“In the absence of a state ban, a federal ban may not be enforced,” Notter said.

Rep. Laurie Harding, D-Lebanon, said these late-term abortions are not performed in the state.

“Sometimes it feels as if this Legislature is at war with health care professionals,” said Harding, who is a registered nurse. “Here we are again attacking women’s reproductive health.”

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.