All 10 Democrats in the New Hampshire Senate co-sponsored a bill reaffirming the current law banning abortion after the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Republicans, who passed the late-term abortion ban over Democratic objections last session, said they were puzzled by the apparent reversal.
“Senate Majority Leader [Sharon] Carson, Sen. [Regina] Birdsell, and Sen. [Daryl] Abbas all pointed out that this is what Democrats were fighting tooth-and-nail against in 2021 and 2022, a ban on abortion up until the moment of birth,” said Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro). “Now suddenly they are supporting the late-term abortion ban. They couldn’t be clearer.”
The bill, SB 181, would not change current law in any way. “It shall be the public policy of New Hampshire that, because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals, the state shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy except as provided in RSA 329:43 through RSA 329:50 and RSA 132:32 through RSA 132:36.” (The latter refers to the late-term abortion ban.)
Why pass a law that doesn’t change the law?
Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth) and Assistant Democratic Leader Becky Whitley (D-Hopkinton) argue it is necessary to create an affirmative right to abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
“It is our job as elected officials to fill in the legal void left when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, particularly because current New Hampshire law explicitly states that there is no affirmative right to an abortion. New Hampshire law is silent on whether individuals have the right to be free from governmental intrusion when seeking an abortion.”
Sara Persechino with Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund confirmed that view when contacted by NHJournal.
“There are no protections in New Hampshire state law for abortion access. Instead, NH RSA 329:49 — part of the 24-week abortion ban passed in 2021 — states: ‘Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed as creating or recognizing a right to abortion.'” [Emphasis in original.]
But given this was simply a bill and not a constitutional amendment, it had no power over future legislatures which could overturn the Democrats’ law with a new one via a simple majority vote.
Because it would accomplish nothing, Republicans told NHJournal they believe it was a purely political stunt.
“My Democratic colleagues who previously stood in opposition to this law would reinforce it through SB181,” said Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead). “Why are they now voting to ban abortions at 24 weeks?”
More specifically, why didn’t Democrats propose the same language they have in the past — abortion with no restrictions up to the day of birth? Abortions for any reason, including sex selection?
“New Hampshire voters, at around 70 to 80 percent, do not support abortion on demand up until the moment of birth,” Bradley noted after the vote. “They just don’t.”