Edited/updated to include information on all relevant procedural votes preceding the final House vote.
Overturning a committee recommendation, The New Hampshire House has voted to pass the original version of HB 1609, which would effectively undermine the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA). After rejecting (without a roll call) the amendment proposed by the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs committee (HHS), the House voted 179-174 to pass the bill with its original language.
According to on-the-scene tweets and subsequent reports from the Union Leader (@KLandriganUL) and WMUR (@AdamSextonWMUR), the failure of the committee amendment was followed by a vote to table (177-176, with GOP Speaker Packard breaking a tie), then a vote to remove from the table (178-175), and finally a vote to pass the bill as introduced (179-174).
So what will the bill do?
HB 1609, backed by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, is intended to weaken the Fetal Life Protection Act, a 24-week abortion limit that went into effect earlier this year. (see HB 2 from 2021, at page 14.)
As described by Cornerstone Action, HB 1609 “…leaves a shell of the law [FLPA] while stripping out the ultrasound requirement, the only objective measure of gestational age. The resulting unenforceable law would be worse than nothing. HB 1609 also inserts additional exceptions, but these are little more than a distraction when compared with the devastating removal of the ultrasound provision.”
HB 1609 as passed by the House therefore shreds the Fetal Life Protection Act.
HB 1609, since it has a fiscal note attached, is supposed to go to the House Finance Committee before heading to the Senate. That Finance hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Governor pleased with outcome
HB 1609 – introduced by a handful of Republicans – is something Governor Chris Sununu wants to see passed without amendment. The avowedly pro-choice Governor said after the House vote, “I would like to thank the bipartisan group of legislators who voted to pass HB 1609 today. This is another step in the right direction as we work to make necessary changes to our laws, and I urge the House Finance Committee and members of the State Senate to keep up the momentum and get this bill across the finish line.”
The Governor said before he was elected that he’d sign a late-term abortion ban. He didn’t say he’d try to preserve one. So he signed last year’s HB 2 with FLPA, and now he’s working to gut it. He had a chance to clarify FLPA by backing the committee amendment to HB 1609, and he chose not to do that.
To his credit, the House Majority Leader Jason Osborne expressed disappointment with the outcome of the HB 1609 vote. “I am disappointed to see so many of our House members who still feel the need to cater to extremists on this issue.”