24 Weeks: An Extremely Modest Point at which to Prohibit Abortion

Pictured above: 3D ultrasound of fetus between 20-24 weeks

HB 625-FN places limitations on late term abortions in the state by protecting the pre-born starting at 24 weeks gestational age with exceptions for medical emergencies. The bill was passed by the NH House on February 25th and is now pending a committee hearing in the Senate. Currently there is no impediment to abortion in NH up to the time of birth. 

HB 625-FN is the first viable opportunity we’ve had in over ten years to enact some common-sense abortion restrictions in the state. 

24 weeks is a conservative cutoff point that is under-inclusive of viability, meaning it will leave out many viable infants. According to physician testimony given to the House Judiciary Committee (see images below), “when a woman greater than 20 weeks pregnant presents with any obstetric concern…she is evaluated on labor and delivery instead of in the emergency department.” The same physician noted “If she is more than 24 weeks pregnant, the present standard of care is to offer a “full court press” of obstetric and neonatal interventions.” This is a recognition that while an infant may be viable as early as the 20 week point, 24 weeks is a conservative and medically reasonable standard of viability.

Using “viability” alone as a guideline, while potentially more inclusive, is not clear guidance and opens the door for subjective interpretation and confusion. With a 24-week standard, physicians and patients will have more than sufficient notice of what NH law is, with clear rules known in advance.

According to the testimony of experienced OB/GYN physicians, a 24-week standard with an emergency exception is not intrusive or restrictive to the physician’s ability to provide a high standard of medical care, and in fact aligns with current lifesaving protocols for the pre-born. 

No law, however well-considered and written, is perfect. HB 625-FN is sound and carefully-crafted legislation. It will put in place clear rules and protections for the preborn in their last trimester, while giving women more than adequate time to make a voluntary decision to terminate their pregnancy. Protecting the lives of the preborn after 24 weeks should be a measure we can all support.

HB 625 Written Testimony: Dr. Sarah Bascle, CMC
HB 625 Written Testimony: Dr. Damian Olsen, CMC