New Hampshire law does not currently have an abortion ban after a fetus reaches a certain gestational age, but that could change if HB 578 becomes law. The bill would prohibit abortion after “viability”, defined as the point at which a fetus is likely to survive outside the womb without extreme medical intervention—generally thought to be around 21 to 26 weeks.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Murphy, does contain exceptions for cases where an abortion is necessary to "preserve the life or health” of the mother or where a fetus has “severe anomalies incompatible with life”. It recently received an “ought to pass” recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee in a 10-7 vote.
Nationally, most abortions take place during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. According to the CDC, only around 1.3% of abortions take place after 20 weeks, and these are far more likely to involve cases that would trigger the exceptions written into HB 578: risks to the health of the mother or cases where the fetus would likely die outside the womb regardless.
Supporters of the bill argue that it fits with constitutional precedent, as established by a gamut of Supreme Court rulings on abortion restrictions. They hold that the state has a responsibility to protect the life of an unborn child once that child could hypothetically survive outside the womb, and that the child’s right to survive trumps the mother’s right to choose whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
Opponents of the bill argue that late-term abortion bans represent dangerous government interference in the doctor-patient relationship, and also express concerns that the law does not make provisions for women who are unable to safely obtain an earlier abortion because they are in an abusive relationship, or in cases of rape or incest.
Learn more about abortion restrictions in New Hampshire.
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