NH House Dems want to let voters decide abortion rights under state constitution

Rep. Alexis Simpson speaks at NH House Dems Press Conference behind a large crowd of supporters holding signs.

Rep. Alexis Simpson speaks at NH House Dems Press Conference behind a large crowd of supporters holding signs.

By Colin Booth

December 11, 2023

State House Democrats, allies, and supporters held a press conference Monday morning offering a new plan for inserting proactive protections for abortion rights into state law after several rejections by New Hampshire Republicans. New Hampshire currently stands as the only state in New England without affirmative protections on abortion in state law.

The amendment would maintain the 24 week abortion ban New Hampshire Republicans included in their 2021 budget while allowing for abortions past 24 weeks with approval from a medical provider.

The specific language of the bill, LSR 2024-2027, reads, “Every individual has a fundamental right to abortion. The state cannot prohibit, restrict, delay, or penalize this right prior to 24 weeks unless it is justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means. After 24 weeks, the state may not prohibit an abortion that, in the professional judgment of an attending physician, is necessary. The physician shall apply the applicable standard of care in making a professional judgment.”

New Hampshire’s current abortion ban of 24 weeks carries up to seven years in prison and fines up to $100,000 for medical providers found in violation of the law. Critics say these penalties have made it challenging to attract health care professionals at a time when providers are struggling with staffing shortages in the state.

Lead sponsor of the bill Rep. Amanda Toll (D-Keene) said the urgency around abortion rights had reached a critical point.

“New Hampshire lawmakers have refused to make abortion an explicit right. Right now that means that we have zero state or federal protections in place that safeguard the right to an abortion. Without these protections in place, whether or not Granite Staters have access to a full range of reproductive health care options is left up to the unpredictable whims of politicians and elections,” said Rep. Toll.

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This proposal by House Democrats comes after Republicans in the House introduced their own abortion bill. Their bill — a ban at 15 days, a timeframe before common over-the-counter tests can detect a pregnancy — has sparked widespread coverage across national media as one of the most restrictive proposals seen nationwide.

Deputy House Democratic Leader Representative Alexis Simpson (D-Exeter), a co-sponsor of the bill who has made abortion rights a focus of caucus since moving into leadership in 2022, underscored the popular support for abortion rights and protections across the state.

“According to recent polling, 87 percent of Granite Staters support reproductive freedom, and do not want state officials to place restrictions on abortion. In New Hampshire we also have a long and bipartisan tradition of direct democracy and allowing voters to decide the issues that most impact their lives for themselves,” said Rep. Simpson.

This constitutional amendment is just the latest attempt by Democratic lawmakers in the state to catch up with surrounding New England neighbors.

Rep Toll proposed a similar constitutional amendment that won a majority of votes in the House last session but failed to gain the three-fifths majority threshold needed for a constitutional amendment to move forward. In March of this year a bill to overturn the 24-week ban was tabled after lawmakers deadlocked on the bill 192-192.

In order to pass, the amendment would require votes in favor by 60% of the House and Senate to pass, and would then go on the ballot to voters in the November 2024 election.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

Politics

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