Women’s Right to Know: HB 1659 (2012)

Cornerstone Action offers our strong support for HB 1659, the Women’s Right to Know Act. The thirteen co-sponsors have our thanks for proposing this comprehensive act.

Informed consent is essential to good health care. In order for women to be in control of their own health, they need full and accurate information about any proposed medical procedure, including abortion. “Choice” in the absence of informed consent is merely an empty slogan.

The sponsors have signed on to a bill that reflects full respect for the Supreme Court decisions now in effect regarding abortion. Abortion advocates may dispute the constitutionality of the bill, but its language is fully consistent with informed consent laws that have been approved by the Supreme Court going back at least 20 years. The legislative findings in the preface to the bill cite other decisions supporting informed consent for abortion. We note one other case not cited in the bill: in 2007, in Gonzalez v. Carhart, the court wrote regarding abortion that the state “has an interest in ensuring that so grave a choice is well-informed.”

We are skeptical of any claims that an informed consent law would interfere with the patient-provider relationship. Time spent documenting that the patient has been given full and accurate information is not time wasted. I question the safety of any business model that puts its own standard operating procedure ahead of a woman’s ability to make a fully-informed choice. Further, the law may actually improve the patient-provider relationship by establishing that a woman has the right to know in advance who will be performing the procedure. A woman wanting to look up publicly-available information about the abortion provider is stymied if she does’t have the provider’s identity in advance. We caution you about letting a clinic as a whole pass itself off as a “provider” in this context.

The bill would mandate reporting of abortion statistics to the state. This is long overdue. Voluntary reporting, the current state policy, is sketchy and incomplete. There are public health as well as legislative reasons for understanding the scope and effect of abortion in New Hampshire. Collecting accurate data is good public policy. Note that the identities of women receiving abortion are absolutely protected under the provisions of this bill.

A 24-hour reflection period is a reasonable provision to help ensure that a pregnant woman or adolescent has time to view and understand information about her pregnancy and the abortion procedure. There is a medical emergency exception to this, as is consistent with patient care and Court precedents.

While the text of the bill appears to conform to Supreme Court precedent, we are pleased to see a severability clause. If this bill is enacted and then challenged, the clause would prevent a court from overturning the entire law due to a deficiency in one part of it. A challenge in our view would be a waste of the plaintiff’s time and money, however. This is thoughtful, comprehensive assertion of the primacy of women’s health over political considerations. We hope the bill receives your prompt approval.