CONCORD — The House on Thursday killed pro-life advocates’ attempt to require abortion facilities to be licensed by the state and voted to further study a bill requiring reporting to the state on each procedure.
House Bill 1501, called the Women’s Health Protection Act, said that just as the state “provides safeguards for women’s health” by licensing hospitals, birthing clinics and other medical facilities, it should also “further protect women’s health” by licensing abortion clinics.
It was defeated on a vote of 211-86 as opponents argued that while the clinics are not licensed in the state, those who perform the procedure are.
The bill required a six-month “provisional license” and then annual renewal. It also required the state Department of Health and Human Services to establish “minimum standards” for each facility in a wide range of areas.
It specifically required that each facility have ultrasound equipment and that an ultrasound evaluation much be performed on all patients who elect to have an abortion after 12 weeks gestation.
House Bill 1502 would have required each abortion clinic to issue a report to the state on each procedure within five days of the procedure being performed. The House voted 188-80 to study the bill.
The Health and Human Services Department would have been required under the bill to prepare a “comprehensive annual statistical report” for lawmakers and the public for “statistical purposes” only and must not identify the patient who had the abortion.
The federal government keeps such statistics, but only from states that voluntarily participate. New Hampshire did not participate in the last federal report by the federal Centers for Disease Control in 2010.
In debate on the clinic licensing bill, Rep. Kelleigh Murphy, R-Manchester, urged lawmakers to “approach this issue neither from a pro-life nor a pro-choice standpoint.”
She said that as a restaurant owner, her business is heavily regulated, as are hospitals and other health facilities, as well as beauty parlors, bakeries and even pet-grooming businesses.
“Each are far less risky than abortions, yet, there are no required state-level licensing and inspection requirement for abortion clinics,” Murphy said.
Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, said a facility must be licensed to “trim someone’s bangs, but not perform abortions.”
But Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said that while abortion clinics are not licensed, those who perform the procedures are licensed and must receive certifications.
He said abortion has a “serious complication rate” of a half of a percent.
“Abortion is a controversial issue to say the least,” Sherman said. “But it is legal, it is safe and it is a medical procedure.”
Noting a unanimous committee vote against the bill, he said, “We all understood that whatever their feelings are, this bill would single out a procedure and apply an unprecedented level of regulation not supported” by clinical data or evidence.
Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, said he has four daughters and three granddaughters, and, “This is all about ensuring safety for New Hampshire’s women. The state has a legitimate interest in seeing that abortions are performed under circumstances of maximum safety for the woman.”
On the abortion statistics bill, Peterson opposed moving the bill to interim study.
Noting that New Hampshire is among only three states that do not collect such data, she said, “You can look up any medical statistics on any medical procedure, with the exception of one.”
“This is not a bill to eliminate abortion, but just to keep people informed.”
Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester, said, “Right now, we have no information on why women choose abortions, which women choose abortions, what age they are getting abortions and at what education level, from what part of the state.
“Making it rarer is a goal we should all be working toward,” she said.
But Rep. James MacKay, D-Concord, said the bill as written would “violate the privacy and confidentiality rights of these patients.”
He said the committee “is committed during interim study to come up with a way of gathering the data in a way that does not infringe on the privacy of these patients.”