Defining life at conception: Fighting words in NH abortion rights debate
On the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, a New Hampshire House committee heard legislation to make this state the most conservative in the country.
Dunbarton Republican State Rep. J.R. Hoell said by defining life at conception, New Hampshire would recognize all life is precious that that science has advanced forward the time when a fetus can live outside the womb.
About 100 supporters and opponents testified for more than three hours before the House Judiciary Committee.
During an interview with NH1, Hoell acknowledged this so-called personhood legislation (HB 194) faces long odds to pass the House and would surely face a veto from Gov. Maggie Hassan, an abortion rights supporter and Exeter Democrat.
"This is about making progress and I'm optimistic that we might do just that this year,'' Hoell said.
When Democrats controlled the Legislature two years ago, only 84 in the 400-person House of Representatives supported this cause.
Jennifer Frizell, policy director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the bill is clearly unconstitutional as it would outlaw all abortions even in cases of rape or incest.
She noted that voters in three, more conservative states [-] Mississippi, North Dakota and Colorado [-] all soundly rejected a referendum to define life at conception.
"Just like I am confident New Hampshire citizens, if they fully understood what their legislators were up to here, would reject this idea and would be outraged that this is where the Legislature is putting its focus,'' Frizell said.
Rep. Kurt Wuelper, R-Strafford and a member of the House panel, said the failure to define life poses troubling questions.
"What happens if we crossed a human being with a pig and come up with something called a kaimera or we crossed that human being with a cow or a rat. Is the result of that crossing a human being a person worth protecting in our laws?'' Wuelper asked.
"If we say that it is not, how can we say that if we don't define person in our laws.''
And Joan Espinola of Salem said life at the point of conception amounts to natural law.
"I mean what a thing does naturally such as if a woman conceives, she will naturally bring forwth a child; a rose bush naturally brings forth roses; a chicken egg, left to incubate, will naturally bring forth a chicken,'' Espinola said.
But Lindsay Hansan, an abortion rights spokesman, said the bill has far reaching effects as it could outlaw some forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization.
"HB 194 is an insult to New Hampshire's women and physicians,'' Hansan said.