A New Hampshire legislative committee had a hearing this week on a proposal for a bill on informed consent for abortion. I was only able to stay for the first hour, by which time the room was still filled to capacity with people anxious to go on record.
I signed the blue sheet familiar to Legislative Office Building regulars, noting that I was in favor of the bill and did not wish to speak. By the time my hour at the hearing was up, there was plenty I wished to speak about.
Anyone can read the text of HB 1707. In summary, the bill sets up requirements for information abortion providers need to give an abortion-minded woman, and it sets up a 24-hour reflection period between the time a woman receives the information and has the abortion or takes the abortion prescription. The 24-hour provision would be waived in cases of medical emergency.
It also gives a woman the right to know 24 hours in advance who’s going to be performing the abortion.
Last time I checked, roughly two dozen states had reflection periods in effect for abortion, ranging from 18 to 72 hours, as part of informed consent for abortion. Even in Texas, some of whose laws were struck down in the Hellerstadt case that established women’s right to substandard medical care, a 24-hour waiting period is on the books. Such laws, properly drafted, have been consistent with Roe for a long time now. This is not groundbreaking healthcare policy. But this is New Hampshire, as Gosnell-friendly a place as one could find, and HB 1707 faces an uphill battle.
One provision of the bill that apparently shocked a committee member – a physician, as it happens – says that no abortion provider gets paid before the woman has had the 24 hours to review the information about the procedure. “Not even a co-pay?” he enquired of one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
That’s right. Not even a co-pay, if the bill means what its plain language says.
As the legislator-physician asked about the co-pay, I thought of Catherine Adair‘s description of her work at Planned Parenthood in Boston: “The first thing – the first thing – that happens in an abortion clinic is the money changes hands. You’re not getting anywhere until you pay for that abortion.”
Another physician, who comes faithfully to every hearing on every bill he perceives as threatening Roe v. Wade, was present to tell the committee, “I’m listening to a lot of people [at the hearing] who don’t trust women and don’t trust the medical system.”
Trust women. Makes as much sense as trust men. Which ones? To do what? What about the three women who co-sponsored HB 1707? What about me?
I’ll give him full marks for speculating about not trusting the medical system, though. I have tremendous respect for the technical skills of health care professionals, and the potential such people have to make the world a better place. There are individual providers who have earned my trust. But trust a “system” with my health? Trust the “system” that has endorsed a public policy that says women are inherently broken and need to be fixed? Trust people for whom abortion – and assisted suicide, for that matter – are considered “health care”?
More from the doctor: rates of pregnancy terminations “have dropped dramatically.” Not by New Hampshire’s measure, since New Hampshire does not collect abortion statistics, which this doctor knows perfectly well.
I heard in that hour more than a few deferential remarks about health care professionals who do abortions. As I expected, I heard criticism that the bill refers to abortion providers as “physicians,” which leaves out the nurse-practitioners who do the job.
In that first hour, no one – nary a sponsor, committee member, or member of the public – mentioned the fact that New Hampshire has no restriction on who may perform abortions. There is no requirement for medical background or training or certification.
If anyone on the committee wishes to change that, HB 1707 provides the opportunity. The committee could amend it to add nurse-practitioners. Then again, perhaps a majority of committee members prefer the status quo, and all the talk about how abortions are safely performed by medical personnel is so much sand in our eyes.
The bill is silent on certification and licensing of abortion facilities, but testimony and committee questions brought it up anyway. Maybe the committee members got the information they needed from someone who spoke after I left, but I’m going to put this in writing and send it to the committee anyway: this is from a New Hampshire Sunday News article from May 19, 2013 (reported in an earlier post), written in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell trial:
“Kris Neilsen, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, explained in an email that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood and the Concord Feminist Health Center are exempt from state licensing and inspection requirements because they are considered physician offices. Twenty-three health care providers such as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and dialysis centers are licensed by the state, but not abortion clinics. ‘In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic – the majority of abortions are done in doctors offices … and doctors’ offices are exempt from licensure under RSA 151:2 II,’ Neilsen said. ‘Because they are exempt, we have no jurisdiction over them, and neither does anyone else.'”
The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee will vote on the bill within a few weeks.