Dueling State House bills deal with abortion-related issues
CONCORD - As a bill to celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision striking down state laws banning abortion were being heard by one House committee Thursday, another panel heard a proposal to require women planning abortions to receive information about alternatives.
Jan. 23 marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision which found that state anti-abortion laws violate a right to privacy which a 5-4 court majority found in the due process clause of the Constitution. State Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, sponsored House Resolution 6 and said she understood the emotion of the debate over legal abortion, and said the resolution was intended to honor what she said were thousands women harmed when states banned abortion under the threat of criminal penalties.
"I understand that abortion is a difficult and personal topic for all of us," Bouchard said. "By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of women."
Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, focused on what she said were the lives lost to legal abortion, something she said is not worthy of official commemoration by the New Hampshire Legislature.
Peterson said, "The sponsors of this resolution are the same people who vote against gun rights to protect children," Peterson said. "To use our taxpayers' money to celebrate the destruction of more than 50 million babies is horrible."
The House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, was hearing a bill to require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, during which a woman trying to arrange for an abortion would receive counseling and education.
Rep Jane Cormier, R-Alton, the sponsor of the bill, characterized it as the same sort of process used for any other medical procedure, consisting of informing the patient of the techniques to be used, discussing the risks and having the patient return for a subsequent appointment for the actual procedure.
"This bill has nothing to do with agreeing with abortion or not," Cormier said.
Specifically, the Abortion Information Act, House Bill 483 would require that prior to an abortion a woman receive information about the physical procedure, including a description of what happens to the mother and fetus during the abortion; a discussion of abortion's medical risks and any danger to subsequent pregnancies.
In addition to the details and risks involved, the law would require a woman to receive information about programs that could help with medical care during pregnancy and laws requiring fathers to contribute to the support of their children. The woman would also have to be informed of her right to change her mind. She would be required to certify on a checklist that all of the law's notification requirements had been met.
Cormier urged the committee to support the bill, saying it sets up procedures that are commonplace in hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices. Testifying in support of the bill, Peterson said it was about education.
"If the woman is given information about the unborn baby that they are carrying and are given true facts of what is going on during the abortion and what happens to the baby during the abortion, maybe they would opt out of the abortion," said Peterson.
Advocates of keeping abortion legal claimed the clear intent of the legislation is to deter abortions by changing the woman's mind.
"This is a bill that does not respect the individual and is a tactic to delay a woman's independence and to intimidate and shame them" said Bouchard, speaking against HB 483. "Most women know when they are pregnant that they have two choices, and I think a woman has thought long and hard what she is going to do with that choice."