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N.H. House passes 24-hour wait for abortion

One of three bills on way to Senate

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire’s House passed a trio of bills Wednesday limiting abortions, including one that would make pregnant women wait 24 hours and certify they had been given information on fetal development before getting an abortion. The House voted 189-151 on the 24-hour wait bill, which also requires that the women receive explicit information about the fetus and an opportunity to view a video on the issue.

The House also voted 224-110 to ban partial-birth abortions, which are already prohibited under federal law.

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Another bill passed 204-133 that would change the timing for judges to decide whether a minor can have an abortion if she wants to obtain one without notifying her parents. New Hampshire’s two-month-old parental notification law currently requires judges to issue rulings in such cases within 48 hours. The bill, a proposed amendment to the law, would allow such rulings to be issued within two court business days. The bills now go to the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.

The Legislature traditionally rejected limits on abortion with one exception - enactment of a parental notification law in 2003 that was never implemented and was later repealed by Democrats. Republicans overrode Governor John Lynch’s veto of a similar bill last year, and it took effect in January. Lynch, who supports abortion rights, has not said if he would veto the three bills.

Abortion opponents say the 24-hour wait ensures women give “informed consent’’ after seeing descriptive pictures of a fetus and a video, but opponents say it is insulting to require women to wait and would be required to undergo biased counseling.

Supporters of the bill argued women have a right to be provided with all the information necessary to make a decision they might later regret.

“Informed consent is a must to good health care,’’ said state Representative Lenette Peterson, Republican of Merrimack.

The bill would require a doctor or someone qualified to discuss the issue to tell the woman about the procedure, medical risks, alternatives, the fetus’s probable gestational age, the fetus’s probable anatomical and physiological characteristics, medical risks of carrying the baby to term and that medical and financial assistance may be available if she chooses instead to have the baby.

The state would be required to publish such information for distribution and create a video for a state-maintained website.

The woman could not have the abortion until 24 hours after being supplied with the information and allowed to view the video. She also would have to certify in writing before receiving the abortion that she has reviewed the materials.

“Since when does the government force women to listen to information they might not want to hear?’’ said Representative Rick Watrous, Democrat of Concord.

Violating the law would be a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The bill also calls for extensive statistical reports to be filed with the state.

Thirty-two states have similar laws and 15, including New Hampshire, are considering counseling requirements, says NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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