Crossover update: FLPA amendments pending; conscience bill and buffer zone repeal heading to Senate

Heading into April with the New Hampshire General Court, three bills are left that affect the Fetal Life Protection Act. Bills on buffer zone repeal and medical conscience rights are moving to the Senate as well.

March 31 marked “crossover,” when all New Hampshire House and Senate bills had to be dealt with in their originating chamber. Next step: hearings in the other chamber, with successful House bills heading to Senate committees and vice versa.

Fetal Life Protection Act

There’s been no more confusing bundle of bills than the multiple attempts to repeal or amend the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), New Hampshire’s new 24-week abortion limitation. Post-crossover, there are three bills addressing FLPA, and one of them is not like the others. Don’t blame me for complicating things; I give full credit for that to our honorable elected representatives in Concord.

  • HB 1609, amended to add a fetal-anomaly exception to the fetal life protection act: on its way to the Senate. HB 1609 started out as an attempt by a handful of Republicans to water down FLPA by adding exceptions and eliminating the ultrasound provision which would serve as a way to confirm gestational age. The full House in a close vote passed the bill, but then the bill went back for a second round of House action in the Finance Committee due to the bill’s fiscal note (the “FN” suffix you’ll find if you look for the bill on the General Court website). On March 31, the House adopted a Finance-proposed amendment to add an exception for “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life,” after hearing from a Brookline mother who is pregnant with twins and has been advised by her doctor that one of the twins “will not survive outside the womb and potentially threatens the life of the other [twin].” (See Union Leader, April 1/2, 2022, page 3.) The amendment also clarifies that ultrasound is only required when there’s reason to believe a fetus may be at 24 or more weeks’ gestation. According to the Union Leader coverage, the eugenic abortion exception elicited a positive response from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The March 31 House vote to accept the committee amendment was overwhelming, 319-25, and it was a division vote so that voters can’t see who voted how. A Senate hearing on the bill has not yet been scheduled.
  • HB 1673 as amended in the House: reason to cheer. HB 1673 will have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 7 at 10:00 a.m. in room 100 of the State House. What you can do: sign in NOW with the Senate Judiciary Committee, before April 7, in support of HB 1673, which the committee will get in the House-amended version. How did HB 1673 get through the House? On a roller coaster. Originally introduced as a bill to repeal FLPA altogether, the full House instead amended the bill – basically re-writing it – to turn it into a clarification of FLPA’s ultrasound language, while leaving the rest of FLPA intact. This excellent move by the House was done on a voice vote, but just a few minutes earlier the House had cast a useful roll call vote when it rejected an attempted amendment offered by abortion advocates. That was a close one: 163-165. On that particular roll call, a Nay vote was a good one.
  • SB 399 as amended in the Senate: cheer again. SB 399 will get a House Judiciary hearing in Representatives Hall at 9:00 a.m. on April 13. What you can do: sign in NOW with the House Judiciary Committee, before April 13, in support of SB 399, which will come to the committee in the Senate-amended version. Unlike the Senate online sign-in form, the House form allows you to attach testimony. This bill mirrors HB 1673 in both its original and amended versions. It started out as an effort to repeal FLPA. It was amended to clarify the FLPA’s ultrasound language. The Senate vote was 14-10, straight party line: all Republicans supported keeping FLPA while clarifying the ultrasound language. No Democrat was willing to support that.

Buffer zone repeal and conscience protections: on to the Senate

HB 1080, protecting medical conscience rights, passed the House by a vote of 175-165. Now, the bill will go to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, date and time TBA.

Likewise, HB 1625, repeal of the buffer zone law, passed the House. I’m delighted that the outrageous committee report on the bill fell flat.The margin of victory was slim: 168-162. Not a single Democrat voted to repeal the unenforceable buffer zone law. Most Republicans did, with eight exceptions. I leave them to their constituents. Next stop for the bill: Senate Judiciary, date and time TBA.

Other bills tabled, unlikely to come back

CACR 18, which would have used the New Hampshire constitution to protect abortion, was tabled by the House on a 175-157 vote. Hooray for anything that derailed this constitutional amendment. It would take a two-thirds vote to take up the measure again (same for the other tabled bills mentioned below), and that’s extremely unlikely.

HB 1477, the heartbeat bill that would have barred abortions after detection of fetal heartbeat, was tabled in the House as well. Vote was 185-143.

Finally, HB 1674, relative to “reproductive rights,” was tabled by a 306-19 House vote – another division vote instead of a roll call, leaving voters at a loss to see who sent this bill to its well-deserved fate. Numbers like that mean that even abortion advocates decided to back away from this measure that could conceivably have allowed a “private right of action” in court against anyone accused of “restrict[ing] or interfer[ing]” with an abortion. Someone praying on a sidewalk, for example? Apparently, the House decided not to find out. Good decision.

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