Republicans in New Hampshire filed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country on Tuesday.
The bill was pre-filed in the House in September, but the full text of the abortion ban was only released Tuesday morning. The legislation “prohibits abortion, other than for a medical emergency, if the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 days,” according to the bill text.
“The 15-day abortion ban filed by Republican lawmakers is an insult to Granite Staters,” state Rep. Alexis Simpson, deputy leader for the New Hampshire House Democratic caucus, said Tuesday. “At 15 days, most women do not even know they are pregnant. We must say it like it is ― this proposal would amount to a complete abortion ban in New Hampshire, with no exceptions.”
Three Republicans in the state House and one in the state Senate co-sponsored the bill. The four Republicans represent some of the more extreme views on abortion in the New Hampshire legislature, and they may not be able to get the support they need to pass the bill.
The main sponsor, state Rep. Dave Testerman (R), introduced several anti-choice bills last legislative session, including a ban on abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which did not get enough support to become law.
The sponsors define a medical emergency as “a condition in which an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury.” The legislation specifies that a life-threatening physical condition caused by the pregnancy itself that creates “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” is also included under the medical emergency exception.
The bill does maintain exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities, taken from the state’s current abortion law, which bans the procedure after 24 weeks. There are no exceptions for rape or incest under the bill’s current language. The bill includes a felony penalty and a $100,000 fine for any provider who performs or induces an abortion after 15 days’ gestation. The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025, if it successfully passes through the state legislature and the governor signs it into law.
A ban of 15 days essentially amounts to a total prohibition on abortion. The vast majority of people don’t realize they’re pregnant until they miss their menstrual period ― usually between a four- and six-week time frame, although it varies depending on a person’s cycle. Fourteen states currently have total abortion bans on the books, and several others have six-week, 12-week or 15-week bans in place.
“New Hampshire House Democrats will stand together to add the right to an abortion to our state’s Constitution and fight against the unrelenting attempts at restricting our constituents’ reproductive healthcare,” Simpson said.
“In a state where voters overwhelmingly believe that reproductive health decisions should be made solely between patient and medical provider, this legislation is absurd,” she added. “Stopping this bill isn’t enough; it must be completely renounced.” (Some 66% of New Hampshire adults said in a 2014 survey that they believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.)
New Hampshire is considered a battleground state in presidential elections, but Republicans gained a trifecta in 2021 after flipping both the state House and state Senate. However, the GOP’s majorities in both legislative bodies are slim. In the House there are 198 Republicans, 195 Democrats, three Independents and four vacancies. The Senate consists of 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who has been in office since 2017, has said that he’s a “pro-choice governor” who supports abortion rights into the second trimester. It’s not impossible that Sununu would veto the ban if it gets to his desk.
“Granite State Republicans have taken attacks on reproductive freedom to a new crisis level,” Heather Williams, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee president, said Tuesday. “It’s hard to wrap my brain around just how unconscionable and dangerous a 15-day abortion ban is.”
“And that’s on top of the abortion ban and limits on reproductive freedom that Republicans have already pushed into law,” Williams added, referring to the 24-week abortion ban that Sununu signed into law last year, as well as a parental notification law. “But that clearly wasn’t enough, and they’re now pursuing one of the most extreme abortion bans in the U.S.”
Clarification: This article has been updated to include more context around the sponsors of the bill and better reflect the likelihood of a 15-day abortion ban passing in New Hampshire.