New Hampshire moves to restrict late-term abortions

New Hampshire state house New Hampshire state house | Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

New Hampshire’s 2021 budget includes a limit on late-term abortions, a significant change from current policy which allows abortions up to the point of birth.

The Fetal Life Protection Act limits abortions in the state to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, unless the life, health, or well-being of the mother is endangered. The act makes performing an unauthorized abortion a class B felony, with fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. New Hampshire currently has no gestational age limit on abortions.

The $13.5 billion state budget bill, which includes the Fetal Life Protection Act, was signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on June 25. The pro-life provisions go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. 

The two Republican state senators who introduced the act, Regina Birdsell and Sharon Carson, explained the rationale behind the provisions in a July 20 op-ed in the Portsmouth Herald

“For too long, we were among a small group of states that provided no protection for unborn children until the moment of birth,” the senators wrote. 

Under the bill, anyone seeking an abortion would be required to have an ultrasound first. The senators defended that provision as “routine,” and argued that most abortion clinics already perform ultrasounds to determine an unborn baby’s age. 

In addition, the bill requires medical providers to file a report to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services each time an abortion is performed after 24 weeks due to a medical emergency. 

New Hampshire is currently one of seven states that has no gestational limit on abortions, New Hampshire Public Radio reported. 

“We are proud that New Hampshire has finally become the 44th state to finally protect infants in the 7th, 8th, and 9th month of pregnancy. This is long overdue,” Birdsell and Carson wrote. 

“Voters have consistently and overwhelmingly supported limits on abortions in the third trimester. They oppose an extreme pro-abortion agenda without any limits up to the moment of birth,” they said. 

A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggested that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases after the first trimester. 

Notably, only 19% of respondents said abortion in the third trimester - roughly months seven through nine of a pregnancy - should be legal in most or all cases, while 81% responded that it should be illegal in most or all cases. 

Most states limit abortions at 18 to 22 weeks gestation, the senators noted. 

“Those who support abortion until birth object to any and all protections for the unborn...we’re hearing that this late-term abortion law is extreme, even though it’s already in place in 43 other states,” the senators wrote. 

Some of the those states with no gestational limits, such as Colorado, have become havens for late-term abortion doctors who accept patients from all over the world. Data from a prolific late-term abortion doctor in Boulder, Colorado suggest that many abortions performed late in pregnancy - some of which are performed as late as 38 or 39 weeks - are due to conditions such as Down syndrome. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its most recent report on abortion in the United States, estimated that 92% of abortions in 2018 were performed within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. 

The CDC data suggests that abortions after 21 weeks gestation make up only 1.2% of all abortions performed in the United States, and are thus “extremely rare.” However, that CDC data excludes information from some states such as California, Illinois, New York, and the District of Columbia.

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More than six-in-ten, 61%, Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances in the first trimester of pregnancy, according to the AP/NORC poll.

The percentage of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all cases in the first trimester was 16%, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 35% said abortion should be illegal in all cases during the second trimester, and 54% answered that way for abortion during the third trimester. 

However, when asked about the legality of abortion overall, 56% said they believed abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 43% said it should be illegal in most or all cases.

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