New Hampshire is a state that puts a lot of stock in the concept of freedom. “Live Free or Die” is stamped on its license plates; it’s home to the libertarian-baiting “Free State Project”; and just a few weeks ago, the governor celebrated its ranking as the “freest state” in the country, according to the Cato Institute.
But that embrace of freedom apparently only extends so far. A group of Republicans from both the state House and Senate have announced plans to introduce a bill that would ban almost all abortions after just 15 days gestation.
The bill is effectively a total ban on abortion. The absolute earliest a woman can confirm she is pregnant is with a blood test 10 days after ovulation. But this proposed law does not ban abortion 15 days after ovulation — it bans abortion at 15 days gestation, counted from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle… which means it would ban abortion before some woman have even had conceived. The only proposed exception to the law is for a medical emergency.
If passed, it would be among the most restrictive bans in the country.
Abortion is currently legal through 24 weeks gestation in New Hampshire; medical professionals who provide abortions after that point face both civil and criminal penalties. (Earlier this year, members of both the Republican and Democratic House caucuses sought to remove criminal and civil penalties associated with that ban, but the effort failed in Senate.)
Republicans currently hold a trifecta in New Hampshire, with GOP majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican occupying the governor’s mansion. But control of the House — the largest in the country with 400 members — sits on a knife’s edge. There are 198 Republicans and 195 Democrats, three independents, and four vacant seats.
The Republican-led attack on reproductive rights has the potential to change that calculus.
Two-thirds of voters in New Hampshire support keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, according to the most recent Pew Research data, and at least one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. John Sellers, is in a vulnerable seat after winning by just four votes in 2022.
The proposed ban is notable in part because just a few weeks ago New Hampshire’s Committee to Elect House Republicans declared that the state’s abortion laws were just as liberal as neighboring Massachusetts.
Abortion is accessible in New Hampshire and in line with most states in our region – most notably, Massachusetts.
Don’t take our word for it – check out what Planned Parenthood has to say.
New Hampshire Democrats are lying about abortion because they can’t run on anything else. https://t.co/tUO4lkBnVg pic.twitter.com/vUfsaJs7sN
— Committee to Elect House Republicans (@CTEHR) November 17, 2023
“New Hampshire Democrats are lying about abortion because they can’t run on anything else,” the group wrote. Reached for comment by Rolling Stone, GOP Rep. Jason Osborne, chairman of the committee, called House Bill 1248-FN “no-chance legislation supported by only a few fringe members.”
Republicans “claim that they don’t want to ban abortion anymore, and that they don’t want to change the 24 week ban. And here we are, with a bill from sponsors in both chambers, trying to move the ban to 15 days,” says Alexis Simpson, deputy minority leader of the New Hampshire House. Simpson pointed to other proposals floated by GOP members to restrict abortion, including a Texas-style abortion bounty law in 2021, and 15-week ban that is expected to be introduced in the upcoming session.
“The only way to protect access to abortion is to break up the New Hampshire Republican trifecta by electing Democrats to the legislature,” Heather Williams, interim president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement shared with Rolling Stone. “Democrats have won 5 seats in the House in 2023 and remain within striking distance of flipping the chamber.”
7:57 pm: This post has been updated to clarify that the law refers to gestational age.
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