New Hampshire

Republican Abortion Bills Lead to Clash in NH House

The Republican-led New Hampshire House of Representatives passed two controversial abortion bills Wednesday during a session in which Democrats walked out and GOP House Speaker Sherman Packard locked the doors

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Contentious moments at the New Hampshire House of Representatives' legislative session on Wednesday were sparked by two controversial abortion bills.

"I'm still processing it, to tell you the truth," explained Republican Deputy House Speaker Steven Smith.

Earlier in the day, the Republican-led House passed the Fetal Life Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 24 weeks, unless there is a medical emergency threatening the mother's life.

"I'm actually terrified for women in the state of New Hampshire for what's on the agenda," said Minority Leader Renny Cushing.

Later in the day, when another controversial abortion bill was moved up on the agenda without notice to Democrats, Cushing told Speaker Sherman Packard that Democrats would be going home.

"They blindsided us at the end of the day," Cushing said.

Democrats rushed the doors as they tried to deny a quorum of 199 members to continue the day's work.

At that point, Packard, a Republican, decided to lock the doors to try and maintain the quorum and keep members inside.

Smith argued that it was a perfectly legal decision to make and one, he says, has been made before.

"If we're not going to accomplish our work, they lock the doors," he said. "You can't even go to the bathroom without an escort."

Cushing believes it was a deviation from past practices in order to push through some radical legislation.

"Some people were locked outside and couldn't get back in," Cushing said.

Realizing that the second abortion bill would be taken up without them, Democrats who initially left the session wanted to return.

Eventually, the speaker unlocked the doors, but not before Republicans passed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would require medical care for any baby born in any stage of development as long as the baby is medically considered alive.

"The main thing is order was not maintained in the House, and that is something that belongs to everyone," Smith said.

Thursday morning, Packard and Cushing shook hands and agreed to put Wednesday's contentious session behind them.

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