Efforts to enshrine abortion rights in New Hampshire fail

May 6, 2022 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Republicans on Thursday thwarted attempts by Democrats to respond to this week’s leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft by enshrining the right to an abortion in state law.

New Hampshire has outlawed abortion after 24 weeks gestation since Jan. 1, thanks to a budget provision Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law last year. Anticipating the Supreme Court action, Democrats have sought to enshrine abortion rights into state law and the state constitution, only to have the bills tabled in the House earlier this year.

In both the House and Senate, they tried Thursday to amend other bills to add abortion protections to state law but were turned back.

In the House, Republican Majority Leader Jason Osborne, of Auburn, accused Democrats of “grandstanding over the outrage du jour” and said taking up the bill was “just a waste of our time.”

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Nearly seven hours later, the Senate voted down a similar amendment. Instead, it approved the underlying bill, which would eliminate the safety zone that keeps protesters at least 25 feet (7.5 meters) away from abortion clinics.

Democrats pointed to other states in arguing in favor of enshrining abortion rights into law. Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, of Portsmouth, noted that Oklahoma’s governor on Tuesday signed a bill prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion after fetal activity is detected in the embryo.

“For years, I’ve heard we don’t need this in New Hampshire, and for many years that was indeed the case,” she said. “Times have changed, we do need these protections now. ... The writing isn’t just on the wall, it is published and confirmed.”

But Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the amendment was unnecessary because there’s been no rush by New Hampshire Republicans to enact further restrictions or ban abortion outright in response to the leaked draft opinion, and abortion will remain legal in the state up to 24 weeks.

“Not one thing has happened. Why? Because when we passed this, we were careful, and we were deliberative. That’s the New Hampshire way,” she said. “We are not impulsive.”

Since enacting the 24-week ban, the Legislature has approved adding an exception for cases in which the fetus has been diagnosed with “abnormalities incompatible with life,” and Sununu plans to sign it. He described that bill Tuesday as a bipartisan measure to “expand access” to abortion without mentioning his role in restricting it.

The draft opinion leaked this week suggests the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the country, sending the abortion fight to the states.

At least eight GOP-led states have already passed new restrictions this year, expecting change from the conservative majority on the high court. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, meanwhile, have protected access to abortion in state law, and several states moved to expand or strengthen those protections this year.