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NH House Roundup: House kills 'medical conscience' bill, restores rail study

State House Bureau

March 15. 2018 8:46PM

CONCORD — A bill that would allow medical professionals to exercise their “rights of conscience” failed in a 218-109 vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The bill, HB 1787, would allow medical professionals to refuse any procedure that goes against their personal beliefs, including abortion, providing contraceptives or contraceptive counseling.

“In our state right now, there are no rights of conscience protections for medical people,” said Rep. Kurt Wuelper, R-Strafford. “Doctors are required in many areas to participate in and perform procedures that violate their consciences. That’s not right.”

Wuelper said conscience protections exist in nearby Vermont and Massachusetts, and the state’s shortage of health care professionals is being exacerbated by the lack of such protections in New Hampshire.

Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, said HB 1787 proposes protections that are much broader than what exists in other states.

“The bill being promoted here is one of the most extreme anywhere, matched only by a law in Mississippi,” he said.

Three other abortion-related bills on the House calendar were rescheduled to the next session, including HB 1680, regarding abortions after viability; HB 1707, regarding a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion; and HB 1721, regarding “coercive abortions.”

Rail study approved

The House voted to pass the state’s 10-year highway plan, but with an amendment to restore a federally funded study of rail expansion from Boston to Manchester.

The House Public Works and Highway Committee had removed the study from the plan as submitted by the governor.

In a 166-160 vote, the House restored funding for the project, known as the Capitol Corridor Rail Expansion.

The $4 million federal grant would be used to provide engineering and environmental analysis, along with firm financial projections.

The measure must now pass the Senate as amended.

“This vote sends a positive message to businesses that New Hampshire is committed to attracting and retaining young talent, bolstering our economy and addressing the significant workforce challenges facing our state,” said New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion spokesman E.J. Powers. “We look forward to working with members of the Senate and Gov. Sununu to ensure continued bipartisan support for this vital effort.”

The House also:

• Defeated a resolution urging the President to pardon Rochester’s Jerry DeLemus for his role in the Bundy Ranch standoff, 180-148;

• Defeated a bill to allow online voting, 179-128;

• Referred to interim study HB 1500, a bill to involve the Department of Labor in investigations of workplace violence, workplace injuries and death in the workplace; 

• Defeated HB 1694, a bill requiring a civics examination as a high school graduation requirement, by a vote of 225-81. The majority felt the change was not needed after the legislature passed SB 45 last year, mandating a course in civics as a requirement for high school graduation.

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