Anticipating Senate vote, Sununu says he’d veto buffer zone repeal

According to Union Leader State House reporter Kevin Landrigan, Governor Chris Sununu has said he would veto the buffer-zone repeal bill if it reaches his desk. That bill, HB 1625, is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday, May 5. I’ll be watching to see if normally pro-life and pro-First-Amendment senators vote against the bill after they’ve heard the veto threat.

The report follows Sununu’s remarks earlier this week in the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion in the Dobbs case that he remains “pro-choice.” On his official website, he has posted the following statement: “As a pro-choice governor, I am committed to upholding Roe v. Wade, which is why I am proud of the bipartisan bill headed to my desk this year that expands access. So long as I am governor, these health care services for women will remain safe and legal.”

The “bipartisan” bill to which Sununu was referring is HB 1609, which adds a eugenics exception to the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), New Hampshire’s recently-enacted 24-week abortion limitation.

Buffer zone, conscience bills will get Senate votes May 5

The New Hampshire Senate at its May 5 session is scheduled to act on committee reports recommending passage for buffer zone repeal (HB 1625) and interim study of medical conscience protection (HB 1080).

Find your senator’s contact information at http://gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/members/wml.aspx

Buffer zone repeal got an “Ought to Pass” (OTP) recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote. The House has already passed HB 1625, so if the Senate votes OTP, the next destination for the bill would be Governor Sununu’s desk.

Medical conscience – including the right not to suffer adverse professional consequences for refusing to participate in abortions – got an unfortunate “Interim Study” recommendation on a 4-1 vote from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. An interim study vote by the Senate would kill HB 1080 for this session. Ideally, senators will overturn the Interim Study recommendation and instead adopt an OTP motion.

The Senate session will be live-streamed on YouTube Thursday, May 5 at 10 a.m.

House session May 4-5

The House will have a two-day session next week. Among the bills on the calendar is SB 399, clarifying the ultrasound provision of the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA). It matches HB 1673, which has already passed. SB 399 is on the consent calendar after getting a unanimous 21-0 OTP vote from the House Judiciary Committee.

While this looks like good news, bear in mind that Governor Sununu has indicated his preference for HB 1609, which has already passed House and Senate. HB 1609 clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound provision, but also adds a eugenics exception (for “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life”) to FLPA’s 24-week abortion limitation.

Post header photo of NH Senate chamber: Marc Nozell, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buffer zone repeal: Senate hearing Tuesday 4/19

Buffer zone repeal, HB 1625, has made it past the New Hampshire House and is on its way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The committee will hear testimony Tuesday, April 19, at 2:30pm in room 100 of the State House in Concord. Everyone who engages in peaceful pro-life witness on public sidewalks has a chance to tell the committee to do the right thing by voting Ought to Pass on HB 1625. Everyone who supports First Amendment rights ought to be right there with them.

HB 1625 is the latest effort to repeal the unenforced buffer zone law, which gives abortion facility managers the right to decide whether peaceful pro-life witness may take place on public property adjacent to their facility. The law has no business being on the books. Repeal is overdue.

If you attend: the committee will have hearings on several bills throughout the day, and the HB 1625 hearing might begin late. Be sure to sign in on the HB 1625 sheet that will be on a table just inside the door of the hearing room. Even if the committee runs late and you have to leave, your sign-in will let the senators know where you stand.

If you can’t attend: sign in electronically, using the Senate Remote Sign-In Sheet. You’ll need to enter the hearing date (4/19), committee (Judiciary), bill number (HB 1625), and then click the box indicating SUPPORT for the bill.

Whether you attend or not, you can email the committee with your testimony – which can be as simple as a polite request that they vote Ought to Pass on HB 1625. On the Judiciary Committee’s web page, click on “Email Entire Committee.”

Update on FLPA bills

Let’s take a look at the status of the bills seeking to amend the Fetal Life Protection Act, New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion restriction.

On its way to Governor Sununu’s desk: HB 1673, a good bill that clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound language while leaving the rest of the law intact. You can contact the Governor’s office and ask him to SIGN the bill. He might be reluctant to sign this one, preferring to wait for another bill that adds an exception to FLPA, so your voice in support of HB 1673 is important.

On its way to the Senate for a vote on Thursday, April 21: HB 1609, which in its current form clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound provision but also adds an exception to the 24-week abortion limit that would allow eugenic abortion for “fetal anomalies incompatible with life.” (This is the Governor’s preferred version.) I will be asking my senator to resist the overwhelming pressure he must be under to add an exception to FLPA.

On its way to the full House for a vote, not yet scheduled: SB 399, which is pretty much a duplicate of HB 1673. After being introduced as a bill to repeal FLPA, the bill was amended by the full Senate into one that would keep FLPA intact except for clarification of the ultrasound language. The House Judiciary Committee has recommended Ought to Pass on SB 399 as amended in the Senate. The vote in the full House is likely to be close.

Post header photo: Michael Drummond/Pixabay.

A door that shouldn’t be opened

Opponents of New Hampshire’s new 24-week abortion limitation – that is, fellow Granite Staters who support abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for one or another class of preborn children – finally resorted to what has always proven to be the most effective way of influencing life-issue policy: a personal story.

A Brookline woman is to give birth shortly to a child who is not expected to survive outside the womb. She stepped forward to tell her story, hoping that compassion would lead to weakening of the Fetal Life Protection Act. A heartbreaking situation, to be sure: the woman is pregnant with twins, only one of whom is deemed healthy. News reports indicate that the mother is now in the hospital awaiting delivery of her children. One of the children will go straight to NICU. The one who is reported to be medically compromised will be wrapped in a blanket and held by her parents until she passes on.

Ex-Governor Northam of Virginia explained the standard back in 2019: “There may be a fetus that’s non viable. If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” In the New Hampshire case, the discussions have already ensued.

The Brookline mother told her story to New Hampshire policymakers, who amended HB 1609 to add an FLPA exception for certain fetal anomalies. Governor Sununu supports the exception. “I do not live in extremes on either side of the issue.”

The same Union Leader article quotes Robert Dunn, public policy director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, a gentleman who frequents the same sort of legislative hearings that draw me. “This would be the first time New Hampshire would designate a particular category of children to be liable for abortion, and that’s a door we don’t think the state should open.”

Remember, the Brookline mother had no abortion. She is simply urging that the option be there for someone else.

Mr. Dunn, speaking for Bishop Peter Libasci, is gently reminding us what that option means.

header photo: Charlie Griffiths/pexels.com

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.