Late Friday afternoon, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced his veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. The House and Senate will consider overrides to this and other vetoes on June 27. Calls and emails to state representatives and senators are in order. The message: override the veto of HB 1679.
While beginning his veto statement with the assurance “I am not a proponent of so-called partial birth abortion”, he went on to reject the bill because he found it “unnecessary” and insufficiently protective of women’s health. His concerns are unfounded.
The governor believes that the existing federal ban on partial-birth abortion means no law is needed at the state level. He overlooks the fact that the federal law applies only if the partial-birth procedure is committed by a federal employee, or by someone on federal property, or by someone engaged in interstate commerce. He also overlooks the possibility that federal officials might not enforce the federal law, leaving states without their own partial-birth bans helpless to stop the procedure.
Governor Lynch also fears that HB 1679 would jeopardize the life of a woman in emergency circumstances. He is critical of the bill’s requirement that two physicians agree that life-threatening conditions exist before a partial-birth procedure can be done, believing that the time spent getting that second opinion could cost a woman her life. The bill, however, applies only to partial-birth abortion, not to any other abortion method. Any physician declaring an emergency could terminate a pregnancy without a second opinion, presumably with the pregnant woman’s consent, using any method other than the one that pulls the live fetus partway out of the woman’s body before “termination.” The governor’s objection sounds as though he means that women are at risk if that procedure is ruled out.
Cornerstone acknowledges that Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose abortion. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales case, Roe did not establish a provider’s right to kill a fetus after assisting a woman in a vaginal delivery of a portion of the fetus’s body. The Court upheld the federal ban on the partial-birth procedure, deciding that while the ban prevented the performance of one particularly gruesome and inhumane procedure, it did not amount to a denial of a woman’s choice since alternative abortion methods are available. Note that the federal law and New Hampshire bill apply to abortion providers, not to women seeking termination of pregnancy.
If Governor Lynch is beyond persuasion, state representatives and senators are not. We will be watching this override vote.