An effort to eliminate mandatory ultrasounds before abortions suffered a setback this week, but the issue is far from settled.
The budget Gov. Chris Sununu signed in June contained a provision prohibiting abortion after 24 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for the mother's life or physical health. The provision, which took effect Jan. 1, also requires ultrasounds to be performed prior to all abortions.
While Democrats have drafted bills to repeal the new law, opponents also hoped to get rid of the ultrasound provision sooner by amending a bill leftover from last year that came before the House on Thursday. But the bill was tabled instead after House Speaker Sherm Packard indicated he would have blocked it on grounds that the amendment was not germane.
The original bill would have established criminal penalties for abortion providers who terminate "the life of a viable fetus." The House Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted in October to replace it with language repealing the ultrasound requirement.
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Packard said Thursday that he only noticed the amendment in the past two weeks.
"I had 200 bills that were retained, and unfortunately I did not get to that bill right away when it was sent over," he said.
Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, dismissed that explanation as an "unprecedented stunt," given that the committee's report was approved more than a month ago and included in the House calendar.
"The Speaker clearly realized he would lose an honest debate and vote and chose this unprecedented abuse of power to get his way," she said in a statement. "Because of this action, women in New Hampshire will remain forced to undergo a procedure that is not medically necessary at the dictation of Republican legislators, not doctors."