News Abortion

Will New Hampshire Prosecute Doctors Who Refuse to Lie to Their Patients About Abortion and Breast Cancer?

Robin Marty

The New Hampshire legislature passed a bill making it a felony if a doctor did not lie to his or her patient about links between abortion and breast cancer (there are none). A House committee is considering rolling back some of the proposed penalties so if doctors refuse to lie they just lose their license.

The New Hampshire legislature badly wants to tell women that abortion will cause breast cancer, despite the fact this is not true. In fact, they wanted it so badly they were willing to make it a felony if doctors don’t lie to patients seeking an abortion.

But now they are starting to second guess themselves.  Maybe it shouldn’t be a felony, just something doctors could lose their license over.

Via Seacoast Online:

A House committee is suggesting the harshest criminal penalties be removed from a bill that would require New Hampshire doctors to provide women seeking abortions with specific information about potential health risks.

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The criminal justice committee voted 8-7 Tuesday to recommend removing the Class A felony. However, violators would still be open to malpractice lawsuits or disciplinary action by the New Hampshire State Board of Medicine.

The committee also left in lesser criminal penalties for another section relating to reporting abortions and reviewing fetal tissue samples.

In multiple states, laws are being passed that will block a doctor from malpractice suits if he or she intentionally lies to a patient.  Now, as one reproductive health advocate puts it, the state of New Hampshire will  “waste taxpayers’ dollars prosecuting doctors for telling the truth.”

News Law and Policy

New Hampshire Council Restores Funding to Planned Parenthood

Teddy Wilson

The council’s 3-2 vote to approve the contract comes ten months after the executive body voted to reject a similar contract. In both cases Councilor Chris Sununu (R- Newfields) was the deciding vote.

The New Hampshire Executive Council voted Wednesday to reinstate a contract with Planned Parenthood amid pre-election politics.

The council’s 3-2 vote to approve the contract comes ten months after the executive body voted to reject a similar contract. In both cases Councilor Chris Sununu (R-Newfields) was the deciding vote. 

Sununu is a Republican candidate for governor of New Hampshire. 

Council members Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) and Colin Van Ostern (D-Concord), a Democratic candidate for governor, also voted to approve the contract, while members Joe Kenney (R-Union) and David Wheeler (R-Milford) voted to reject the contract.

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The $549,000 contract will fund services like physical exams, sexually transmitted infection tests, and breast and cervical cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers in New Hampshire.

There are five Planned Parenthood facilities in the state. All of them offer a range of other reproductive health-care services; only two provide abortion services.

“We are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the Council listened to their constituents and the majority of New Hampshire voters and chose to reverse course from last year’s vote,” Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, said in a statement“Blocking access to health care at Planned Parenthood threatened the wellbeing of Granite State citizens.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England served 14,191 patients at the end of 2014, according to statistics provided by the organization. That number dropped by 21 percent, to 11,119, by the end of 2015 following the council vote to reject its funding request. 

Last year Sununu voted against approving the contract for Planned Parenthood citing surreptitiously recorded videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress.

The organization’s leader, David Daleiden, is facing a felony indictment in Texas for tampering with government documents.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan refused to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of the smear campaign. “We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor,” Hassan said last August according to a local ABC affiliate. “We do not launch criminal investigations in the state of New Hampshire because somebody edits a tape.”

Hassan is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and a crowded field of Democrats and Republicans are competing to succeed her in November.

Sununu defended his vote in January because of Hassan’s refusal to investigate Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and because of political pressure from reproductive rights advocates after his vote against the funding. “They proved themselves to be bullies and I don’t do business with bullies,” Sununu said, reported Seacoast Online.

However, Sununu’s tone changed Wednesday. “As [Planned Parenthood] is no longer under investigation, they should be treated like any other organization that comes before the council,” said Sununu in a statement.

Sununu told reporters after the vote that he decided not to allow politics to interfere with ensuring health care access in the state.

“I’m not going to let politics [influence] the importance of funds that go to help low-income women. I’ve been a supporter of these types of funds since the day I became a councilor, and I’m going to maintain my consistency with that support,” Sununu said, reported New Hampshire Public Radio.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Frank Edelblut reportedly criticized Sununu for his vote. He remarked, according to New Hampshire Public Radio: “Clearly what this shows is we’ve got a lack of principle here. We need a governor who has principles that the voters can rely on.” 

News Maternity and Birthing

Midwives Fight to Make Their Practice Legal Again in Delaware

Emily Crockett

Currently, in Delaware, it’s effectively illegal for a trained, certified midwife to attend a home birth. A new bill introduced in the state legislature last week aims to change that, and is one example of how a growing movement of midwives is seeking to change inconsistent state laws that often criminalize their practice.

Currently, in Delaware, it’s effectively illegal for a trained, certified midwife to attend a home birth. A new bill introduced in the state legislature last week aims to change that, and is one example of how a growing movement of midwives is seeking to change inconsistent state laws that often criminalize their practice.

Midwifery is not technically forbidden under Delaware state law, advocates told Rewire, but certified professional midwives (CPMs) hired by pregnant women who want to give birth at home face a legal catch-22. CPMs undergo three to five years of training and assessments to become nationally certified, but they still usually need to be licensed in individual states. To get a license in Delaware, midwives have to form a collaborative agreement with a doctor—but no doctor will sign such an agreement, because most malpractice insurers won’t cover CPMs or home births. And if a midwife delivers a baby without obtaining this agreement, she faces a felony charge and a fine of at least $1,000 for the unauthorized practice of medicine. These criminal charges were made explicit last year in a contentious bill that passed last-minute at the end of the session.

“The Department of Health in Delaware wrote rules that make no sense,” Susan Jenkins, steering committee member of the Big Push for Midwives Campaign, told Rewire. There are also only three CPMs in Delaware, Jenkins said, two of whom have been issued cease and desist orders for attending home births and who could face felony charges. (Jenkins is also an attorney who has represented one of those women.) The third CPM did manage to get a collaborative care agreement signed, but that’s because she only works with Amish clients, who generally don’t sue or go to hospitals.

Jenkins noted that the state’s small number of practitioners is mostly due to the harsh regulatory environment, and that more would be likely to practice in the state if they could get licensed. Helping midwives get licensed is the goal of HB 319, sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark), which would form a council to write rules and regulations for the practice of midwifery. The Midwife Advisory Council’s rules would be subject to approval by the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, and the council would be made up of three CPMs, a certified nurse midwife (a midwife who is also trained as a nurse), an obstetrician, and a pediatrician.

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About 20 midwives, doulas, and expectant mothers lobbied Delaware legislators to support the bill, sharing their stories of successful home births and arguing that mothers should be able to legally choose the birth option they feel is most right for them.

Delaware isn’t the only state where a tangle of old and new laws and regulations has either directly or indirectly outlawed the practice of non-nurse midwifery. According to data from the Big Push for Midwives Campaign, as many as 22 states do not legally authorize CPMs to practice. Midwives won victories most recently in California (where a new law provided for licensure and removed a requirement that midwives be supervised by doctors) and Hawaii (where two bills seen as hostile to midwives were defeated).

Katie Prown, a Big Push for Midwives steering committee member who has worked on pro-CPM campaigns in 19 states, told Rewire that midwife advocacy occupies a strange ideological space: It brings together women from both the pro-choice and anti-choice movements, and it leads to battles in states with either liberal or conservative legislatures. In the latter case, she said, “Whoever the majority party is, the caucus is divided, and we always find supporters [of hostile legislation] owe a lot of their campaign cash to the medical lobby.”

A 2006 battle for pro-midwife legislation in Wisconsin took legislators completely off-guard, Prawn said, because of the strength and breadth of the grassroots movement behind it. “The feedback we got was that this was the first bill in years where people were hearing from literally every single district in the state,” Prawn said. “The most conservative and the most liberal member of the state senate were both sponsoring the bill. Nobody had seen that in years.” The kicker, she said, came when the campaign flooded the halls of the state house with Amish and Mennonite supporters of the bill to flummox opponents who had been invoking the Amish in their arguments.

Critics of midwifery say home births are less safe than hospital births, while midwives point to more favorable research and say studies claiming home births to be unsafe are biased. But regardless of where the scientific consensus ends up, advocates say, there will always be some percentage of women who do not want to deliver in hospitals, and the goal should be making non-hospital births safer, not outlawing them.

“It is just lazy to assume that all the people who choose home birth do so because Ricki Lake told them to,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, staff attorney with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, referring to Lake’s 2008 pro-home birth documentary The Business of Being Born. “They have needs and concerns that aren’t being met in hospitals and birthing centers, and instead of pushing them further to the margins, we need to try to address those needs and make sure that the care they get is as safe as possible.”

Moreover, Diaz-Tello said, since even relatively safe activities will never be 100 percent safe, “safety” is often used as a pretext to carry out other agendas, especially those that end up harming women. States like Texas and Mississippi, for instance, have nearly regulated abortion out of existence in the name of “safety,” she said.

“This is why birth is such a feminist issue and a reproductive rights issue,” Jenkins said. “It’s a choice that women and their families should be able to make.”

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