Monday, March 17, 2008

I Love NH!

Four bills on abortion voted down

By LAUREN R. DORGAN
Monitor staff

Mar 14, 2008

The House yesterday quashed four bills that would regulate abortions for minor girls, with Democratic leaders saying the proposals don't do enough to ensure the rights and privacy of teenagers in desperate situations.

Two of the bills would mandate that parents be informed before a minor daughter's abortion, while another would require that parents consent to the procedure. A fourth would require abortion providers to check the residency of teens before performing the procedure to be sure their clients aren't evading laws of their home states. All four bills failed by wide margins.

The parental notification debate has become a perennial one in New Hampshire. In 2003, the state passed a parental notification law that never took effect due to court challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law must contain a health exception; last year, the Legislature repealed the law rather than rewrite it.

This year, Rep. Fran Wendelboe returned with a parental notification bill that contains an explicit health exception. She called hers a "constitutional bill, a fresh start."

Republicans said they had worked in good faith to craft a bill that would pass constitutional muster. "We operated under the assumption that if we made the appropriate adjustments . . . that this House would do the right thing," said D.J. Bettencourt, a Salem Republican. "I hope we were not wrong."

But Democrats countered that the exception provided in the bill for girls who can't talk to their parents - they could appear before a judge - didn't do enough to ensure girls' privacy. Moreover, opponents argued, the state shouldn't intervene in private family matters and can't pass a law that would make all family relationships healthy.
"Mandating parental notification for all young women seeking an abortion will not protect the teens who live in family situations that are troubled at best," said Bette Lasky, a Nashua Democrat.

The parental notification bill failed, 190-128. A broader bill that would require medical professionals to notify parents when treating a minor fell 207-111. The parental consent bill also failed, 211-109.

Out-of-state minors were the focus of another bill, which would have required abortion providers to look up and follow the laws of the girls' home states.

Most other states have either parental notification or parental consent laws - by Wendelboe's tally, 82 percent do - and Republicans argued that New Hampshire should honor those. "New Hampshire is in danger of becoming an abortion destination state," said Rep. Gregory Sorg, an Easton Republican.

But Democrats argued that the bill would force abortion providers to have encyclopedic knowledge of other states' laws and that the law could affect the rights of college students, among others. The bill failed, 210-106.

Yesterday's bills aren't the last word on abortions for minors this session. A Democratic-backed bill that would require minors to have a counseling session with a licensed professional before getting an abortion is advancing in the Senate. That bill, which has split pro-choice groups, cleared a Senate committee this week and will go to the Senate floor next week.

*I like to call this the common sense state :)*

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