Competing abortion proposals tabled ahead of NH’s next legislative session

Nov. 23 – Franklin Republican Rep. Dave Testerman is proposing legislation that would ban abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, though he says there probably won’t be enough support for the measure to pass when lawmakers next year reconvenes.

Even some of his GOP peers probably won’t vote for it, he said.

“There are a lot of people who are afraid of the public eye, so I suspect we have a lot of people that are going to be hiding in the corner on that front,” Testerman said.

The exact wording of the bill isn’t yet available, but Testerman believes it would require detecting the fetal heartbeat through a stethoscope, which he says is likely to occur between 12 and 16 weeks of gestation.

His proposal comes in the form of a Legislative Service Request, which requires state officials to write the restriction into an actual bill. Tuesday was the last day for lawmakers to file LSRs for the upcoming session.

During the Nov. 8 state election campaign, many Democratic candidates criticized Republicans for passing legislation last year banning most abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Democrats won seats in the election, and the NH House is now almost evenly split, with pending recounts ongoing.

Testerman said Republicans didn’t push back those Democratic criticisms hard enough.

He said the 24-week limit now in force in New Hampshire meets the profitability standard in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of the US Supreme Court in 1973, which the court overturned in June, ending a constitutional right to the trial and leaving the matter in the hands of the states.

NH House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, said in an interview with NH Public Radio in July that he would fight efforts to further limit abortion in the state, and Republican NH Gov. Chris Sununu has spoken out self-identified as a supporter of the election He signed the 24-week restriction.

Meanwhile, Rep. Amanda Elizabeth Toll, D-Keene, has filed an LSR on a proposal that would allow voters to approve a measure to enshrine reproductive rights in the NH Constitution. She is also a co-sponsor of a separate bill to create legislation guaranteeing access to abortion in the state.

Toll also said it could take longer than just a year for such measures to be passed. She made a similar effort in the last session where she failed to win the round.

“It’s important that even when the cards feel against us, we continue to work towards the changes that we know our constituents want,” she said in a written statement Tuesday. “I think the quote, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done,’ stuck throughout American history and applies here.”

She said Testerman’s legislation was extreme and “out of touch with the majority of Americans and Granite Staters.”

For his part, Testerman, 78, said he thought it was important that he propose anti-abortion legislation even if there wasn’t much chance of passage.

He compared his efforts to ban abortion to those of British politician William Wilberforce, who campaigned for 40 years to abolish slavery in the British Empire. It was completed in 1833, the same year he died.

“I probably won’t be here for 40 years, but I’ll keep trying,” Testerman said.

Rick Green can be reached at [email protected] or 603-355-8567.