The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v Wade will leave the state’s 24-week abortion ban in place. It will also add even more fuel to the protests and fundraising drives abortion providers and advocacy organizations have launched in the last several weeks.
Here’s what you need to know about how this decision will affect New Hampshire.
What are New Hampshire’s reproductive laws?
Abortions are legal in New Hampshire up to 24 weeks in most cases, under a law added into the state budget last year. That limit is lifted when a mother’s life or health is at risk or when a fatal fetal anomaly “incompatible with life” exists, meaning the infant won’t survive outside the womb.
Providers who violate the law can be imprisoned up to seven years and fined up to $100,000.
Lawmakers added an exception for fatal fetal anomalies this year after women shared their accounts of having to terminate late into a pregnancy after learning their child would not live.
Since 2012, a person under 18 must notify a parent 48 hours before having abortion or seek a judicial bypass through the courts to be exempted from the notification requirement.
Are there efforts underway to tighten or loosen those laws?
Legislators debated and rejected most efforts this session do both, from a bill to preventing future restrictions on abortion and enshrining the right to an abortion in the state constitution to legislation banning essentially all abortions.
One House bill sent to a study committee would allow any man to ask a court to stop an abortion without first proving paternity of the child. There is little expectation that effort would get far should it return.
It won’t be clear what’s to come next for New Hampshire after the November elections this year, when lawmakers file preliminary paperwork indicating what bills they plan to introduce.
House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, an Auburn Republican, said in a June 12 interview that he was not committed to passing any further abortion laws.
“That is where I’m coming from,” Osborne told WMUR. “We have spent the last two years working very diligently to come up with a position that fits the majority of Granite Staters, the pro-choice people and pro-life people coming together and getting some agreement. That was a hard-fought victory, and at the end of the road, you saw some unanimous votes taken where we were all able to come together and hopefully we will be able to stick there.”
In a statement Friday, Osborne said: “While today’s ruling returning complete authority over abortion back to the states where it belongs is a great triumph for Federalism, it does nothing to change the accessibility of these services in New Hampshire.”
Still, it’s a near certainty we’ll see legislation from both sides of the debate anyway. Less certain are odds of success.
While Democrats have warned the 24-week ban would be a first step to more restrictive gestational age limits, Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed the ban but also advocated for the addition of the fatal fetal anomaly exception, has said he would not support additional restrictions.
Should New Hampshire providers expect to see more out-of-state abortion patients?
Time will tell.
People living in 15 to 26 states certain or likely to ban or further restrict abortion, depending on the analysis, will have closer alternatives than New Hampshire. (The New York Times has put it at 15; the Guttmacher Institute has estimated 26.) That’s true even within New England, where other states have laws similar or less restrictive limits than New Hampshire’s, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is tracking abortion regulations by state.
Vermont allows abortion at any point in pregnancy. Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut prohibit abortion at viability, an unspecified point in pregnancy generally considered to be between 24 and 26 weeks.
Massachusetts also has a 24-week ban and parental notification law, but dropped criminal penalties for providers.
New Hampshire will most likely be a destination for someone who has a friend or family member here to stay with or can support them before and after the procedure.
What kind of action around abortion protections should we expect in New Hampshire?
More of what we have seen since the draft decision overturning Roe was leaked in May.
Abortion and civil rights groups rallied in front of the State House and elsewhere when the draft decision overturning Roe was leaked in May and had planned more protests for the release of the final court decision.
The issue has inspired first-time candidates to run for the Legislature and the Executive Council, which has repeatedly voted down family planning funding in recent months for non-abortion care like cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Also in May, the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation announced it was expediting its launch of a reproductive health care access fund and announced its first grant award to the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire, which helps patients with abortion expenses. The organization, founded in 2019, has provided over $100,000 in assistance, Executive Director Josie Pinto announced in early June.
The month before the leaked draft, Reproductive Equity New, a Massachusetts-based abortion rights group, released a guide to abortion services and support in New England.
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