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Friday, April 13, 2012

State senate committee holds testimony on four anti-abortion bills

CONCORD – Supporters of several bills to ban abortions fought against being labeled anti-women, while opponents told lawmakers they risked fouling New Hampshire’s reputation as a state that defends individual rights.

These were the philosophical markers laid down as a state Senate committee took hours of testimony Thursday on four anti-abortion bills, among them to mandate a 24-hour waiting period, to outlaw the procedure after 20 weeks, and to ban so-called partial-birth abortions.

Rep. Susan DeLemus, R-Rochester, pleaded with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to make women wait a day before having an abortion. If she had that chance at age 31, she would not have had an abortion.

“If I had had 24 hours, I would have a 24-year-old,” said DeLemus, who nearly broke down and cried several times.

“I wish to God that I had that 24-hour period that they informed me of everything that was going to happen and the developmental stages of that baby.”

Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester, said aborting a fetus is unlike any other medical act and should be the only state law with a medical waiting period.

“You can’t undo an abortion. You can’t undo a baby. You can’t undo it to yourself and to your family,” Souza said.

And Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said men like him have to deal with the “mental torture” from women such as his wife who had an abortion before they were together.

“This is to make sure women have a right to know what to expect,” Baldasaro said of the waiting period.

“You show up. You are on the table It’s like a meat market.”

But Hilda Sokul, a former Democratic state legislator from Hanover, said these bills would return New Hampshire to time when poor or uneducated women had to seek abortions in back alleys.

“I really am quite disturbed there is a backlash against what we have accomplished in the last 50 years,” said Sokul, 83.

And Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, said they disrespect women and would have government interfere in a private, patient-doctor relationship.

“We have always been proud. We are the live free or die state. We respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions,” Bouchard said.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives has passed over to the Senate seven anti-abortion bills this year.

The State Senate is unlikely to pass them all and veteran observers say the bans on partial birth and abortions past 20 weeks are the most likely to pass.

Gov. John Lynch, an abortion rights advocate, is likely going to try and stop them all with a veto.

In 2011, the Legislature overcame the veto of Gov. John Lynch to pass a law requiring minor girls notify a parent before getting an abortion.

This ended more than a decade of New Hampshire as one of less than six states in the nation with no restrictions on abortion.

Now the GOP, anti-abortion march is on to have New Hampshire add restrictions common in other states.

Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, noted that 32 states have laws making women wait some period of time before getting an abortion.

“This isn’t about a traffic ticket,” Notter said.

“This is abortion -- the killing of a baby.”

Rep. Robert Willette, R-Milford, said these laws don’t outlaw abortions but would ban them once the fetus has become more developed and closer to actually being born.

“Every woman still has the right to an abortion and she has 20 weeks; I think that is pretty of time to decide,” Willette said.

The bills to ban partial birth abortions and any after five weeks could subject to a defiant doctor to a state prison term of seven and a half-to-15 years.

The Congress passed a federal law ban on partial-birth abortions in 2007.

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.