Senate  panel considers end-of-life and abortion bills

The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony Tuesday on two bills sought by anti-abortion advocates, one to require doctors have to take all steps to save newborns and the other to ban abortion after 24 weeks except to save the life of the mother.

CONCORD — Nancy Glynn of Sutton said a proposed bill mandating life-saving care to a critically ill newborn would have robbed her of the 40 minutes she spent with her son, Sawyer, prior to his death in 2015.

Sawyer was born prematurely at 25 weeks, and he was so small that doctors informed the parents they could not keep a breathing tube inside him.

“I kept screaming at the doctor saying, ‘What do we do now?’” Glynn said, choking up with tears as she recalled the crisis.

The parents agreed to take the child in their arms until he died.

“I am one of many who has lost or who will lose a child. Every parent should be able to have those moments with their babies,” Glynn said.

Glynn was testifying in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the House-passed HB 233, which requires health care providers to take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life and health” of a newborn.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Jordan Ulery, R-Hudson, said it protects infants, including those who are born via late-term abortions.

“This bill does not prevent a couple from holding their dying child,” Ulery said. “What this does is ensure that when a child is born alive, it is not just dumped in the trash to die.”

But several opponents said this bill would interfere with the grieving process, and they insisted it wasn’t an abortion bill.

“This bill is not about abortion. It’s really about end-of-life care,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.

The committee took nearly four hours of testimony on HB 233 and HB 625, which would ban abortions after 24 weeks except to protect the health of the mother.

“We are the most abortion friendly state in the nation. I don’t think that’s a good badge for us to wear,” said Rep. Beth Folsom, R-Wentworth, sponsor of the second bill.

Both measures face an uncertain future given that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu supports abortion rights.

State Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, offered an amendment to Ulery’s bill to prevent doctors from facing a Class A felony charge for violating the law if they engaged in “reasonable conduct” while trying to save the child’s life.

Several obstetricians and gynecologists warned the legislation would discourage many from entering a field that’s already facing a workforce shortage.

Each year, the state’s OB/GYN degree programs produce only four graduates, they said.

“To add legislation that would potentially result in felony convictions for providers … in my opinion, it could further exacerbate the health care crisis that we face in this state,” said Ilana Cass, chairman of the OB/GYN program at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Burt Dibble, the former president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, also testified.

“Best care may not necessarily be more care,” Dibble said.

A woman identified online only as “Sarah” said she had a similar experience as Nancy Glynn, losing a child soon after its birth, but she supported the bill.

“It is not true that doctors will always go in and care for children in these situations,” said Sarah, who said she got an hour and 47 minutes to spend with her newborn daughter before she died.