No immediate change expected in New Hampshire after high court's abortion ruling

  • Crowds of people protest for abortion rights in Keene’s Central Square on Friday evening in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. — HANNAH SCHROEDER/SENTINEL STAFF

The Keene Sentinel
Published: 6/25/2022 9:33:34 AM

New Hampshire leaders assured the public Friday that abortions will not be outlawed in the state despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending constitutional protections for the procedure.

“Regardless of this Supreme Court decision, access to these services will continue to remain safe, accessible and legal in New Hampshire,” Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said in a prepared statement.

Community members gathered in Keene’s Central Square Friday evening to protest for abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision announced earlier in the day to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Keene Mutual Aid, End Sexual Violence on Campus, Party for Socialism and Liberation, local political candidates and students who joined in the conversation were among the speakers at the event. Cars driving through Central Square provided cheers and honks in support of the event throughout the evening.

Earlier Friday, state Rep. Amanda Elizabeth Toll, D-Keene, expressed outrage over the high court’s decision.

“As a currently pregnant person, mother and legislator, and someone who has needed abortion care in my own life, I am deeply disturbed by and angry about this news,” said Toll, who is running for re-election. “That said, I am not surprised. Republicans have been chipping away at abortion access for years. Overturning Roe has always been their goal.”

She said New Hampshire residents need to take action at the ballot box to back candidates who support a woman’s right to an abortion.

State Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and four other female Senate Democrats released statements critical of the Supreme Court ruling.

“Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued perhaps its most extreme and politically motivated decision ever, revoking a woman’s constitutional right to legal abortion,” Soucy said. “This is the most blatant and offensive revocation of a constitutionally protected right in modern history.”

In the absence of constitutional protections for abortion rights, decisions on regulation of the procedure will be up to the states.

In New Hampshire, Sununu signed a bill last year that banned abortions after the 24-week mark. This year, he signed a measure to put an exception in the ban for women carrying fetuses with fatal anomalies.

In a statement Friday, New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, defended the ban and downplayed the significance in New Hampshire of the high court ruling.

“Last year, we passed legislation that put limits on the most extreme and unnecessary late-term abortions,” he said. “While today’s ruling returning complete authority over abortion back to the states where it belongs is a great triumph for federalism, it does nothing to change the accessibility of these services in New Hampshire.”

Still, abortion-rights advocates said they expect further attempts to limit the procedure in the Granite State, where the Legislature has been unwilling to codify reproductive rights in state law.

“I have been doing advocacy in this state on reproductive rights for just about a decade now and every year we have seen attempts to roll back the ability to access abortion in this state, and I don’t think that’s likely to change in the coming years,” Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in an online news conference Friday afternoon.

One attempt to sharply curtail abortions in New Hampshire this past legislative session came in House Bill 1477, sponsored by Rep. Dave Testerman, R-Franklin, to prohibit abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. This can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The bill was tabled, 185-143, on March 16 and did not advance in the legislative process.

Testerman said in an interview Friday he would like to see New Hampshire adopt a stricter ban on abortion than the 24-week prohibition now in place. He applauded the Supreme Court ruling.

“Frankly, I think it’s about time,” he said.

He said he would not bring the fetal heartbeat bill up next session, but may consider legislation that would enhance the labeling requirements for drugs used in medication-induced abortions.

Testerman also criticized Sununu for not wanting to outlaw abortions in New Hampshire, calling him a “pro-death governor.”

Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, a co-sponsor of the fetal heartbeat bill, called the Supreme Court decision “a great win.”

“But it doesn’t change a darn thing in New Hampshire,” he said, noting that while he opposes abortion, he wants to abide by the feelings of a majority of his constituents and people statewide who feel it should not be banned outright.

“One of the tough things about being a representative is that, as a Catholic, I’m against abortion at all stages, but I don’t represent just myself,” he said. “I would be ecstatic if abortion were illegal totally, but that’s not the will of the people, so that won’t happen.”

Unlike New Hampshire, about half the states have passed enabling legislation or taken other steps indicating they will enact abortion bans now that the Supreme Court has ended the constitutional protection for the procedure. This protection came about nearly 50 years ago in the Roe v. Wade decision.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 


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