Welcome to another week of the ACLU of NH Civil Rights Sentinel, our weekly legislative update and your calls-to-action to help us fight for our civil rights! Here’s what we have for the coming week of February 19, 2018—the Senate Commerce Committee and House Judiciary Committee are hearing, and voting on, the following priority bills this week. Help us by urging Committee Members to vote in support of civil rights!

Explanation of Terms:

  • ITL = inexpedient to legislate: sends the bill to the House or Senate floor with a negative recommendation.
  • OTP = ought to pass: sends the bill to the House or Senate floor with a positive recommendation.

 

Senate Bill 421 – An act relative to insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives

  • Call-to-Action: Attend the public hearing and/or Call Senate Commerce Committee Members and urge them to vote OTP
  • Public Hearing:
    • Tuesday, February 20 @ 1:45pm
    • State House, Room 100, 107 N. Main Street, Concord, NH 03303
  • This bill would update NH’s existing “contraceptive equity law” to reflect current coverage and best medical practices by incorporating no cost-sharing protections and adding a requirement that coverage include a 12-month supply of prescribed contraception at each dispensing interval.
  • This bill builds on NH’s longstanding commitment to ensuring that women are able to maintain access to affordable contraception.
  • A 12-month supply helps prevent gabs in contraceptive, helping to reduce unwanted pregnancies. For example, the pill is 99% effective when consistently used, but in real life is only about 91% effective, in part because of missed pills.
  • This bill would also increase economic security for women and families in the Granite State by increasing the ability to effectively plan pregnancies.

House Bill 1787 – An act relative to the rights of conscience for medical professionals

  • Call-to-Action: Attend the public hearing and/or Call House Judiciary Committee Members and urge them to vote ITL
  • Public Hearing:
    • Tuesday, February 20 @ 10am
    • Legislative Office Building, Room 208
  • This bill would give health care workers a right to discriminate against patients based on their medical needs. In effect, health care providers would be allowed to determine a patient’s care based on their own religious beliefs, rather than on what is best for the patient.
  • Hospital employees could turn away patients in need of medical care because of the employee’s opposition to the care sought, even in emergency situations.
  • A religious exemption law like HB 1787 would allow hospitals receiving government funding to deny medical care because of religious beliefs. Hospitals that take taxpayer dollars, including Medicaid, should not be allowed to use religious beliefs as reason to refuse to treat or serve a patient.
  • This bill could force medical providers to employ people who refuse to perform procedures specifically listed in the job description and required to treat that providers’ patients.

House Bill 1319: Bans discrimination of transgender Granite Staters

  • Call-to-Action: Call House Judiciary Committee Members and urge them to vote OTP
  • Public Hearing: was on January 31 and February 13, 2018
  • Since 1998, NH’s laws against discrimination have included protections on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, and public accommodations, but there are no explicit protections based on gender identity. This means a transgender person is at risk of being fired from a job, evicted from their home, or denied access to or equal treatment in public accommodation, based solely on their gender identity.
  • Transgender Granite States face disproportionate rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence in all areas of life.
  • Now more than ever, it is urgent that NH lawmakers take steps to affirm the dignity of transgender Granite Staters and ensure their fair and equal protection under the law.
  • Businesses, large and small, tourism boards, chambers of commerce, as well as conference and major sporting event organizers have been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT equality. They know that if New Hampshire is going to compete in the U.S. and global markets, it must invest in its reputation as an open and welcoming place to do business.

House Bill 1721: Restricts Access to Abortion

  • Call-to-Action: Call House Judiciary Committee Members and urge them to vote ITL
  • Public Hearing: was on January 31 and February 14, 2018
  • This bill wrongly asserts that abortion providers encourage clients to make a decision about abortion quickly. The bill is premised on inaccurate information and findings about the prevalence of women being coerced into having an abortion.
  • This bill imposes an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right by making it all but impossible for abortion providers to treat her. Under this law, a woman who generally has “a negative view toward abortion” but nevertheless seeks to terminate her pregnancy is branded a “vulnerable person” for whom informed consent is inherently suspect.
  • This bill is a criminal law and yet it contains numerous undefined terms and unknowable directives. For instance, the bill does not include a definition of “coercion.” Vague terms in any so-called “anti-coercion” law make the law unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable.
  • Courts have not hesitated to strike down similar provisions to those in this bill because they make the provision of abortion services too risky for providers, chilling the provision of a constitutionally protected healthcare service.
  • Health care providers already have to ensure a woman’s independent informed consent before providing abortion services. This is standard medical practice.
  • This bill creates unnecessary obstacles to abortion.  

House Bill 1680: Bans abortion after viability

  • Call-to-Action: Call House Judiciary Committee Members and urge them to vote ITL
  • Public Hearing was on January 31, 2018
  • This is a solution in search of a problem, and serves as a ban on abortion by any other name.
  • This bill serves as a witch hunt against providers who treat women later in pregnancy, and opens the door for a physician’s decisions in such circumstances to be challenged.
  • When you target physicians who have to make high-stress, live time decisions, you make it harder for hospitals to recruit – and NH is already having trouble recruiting OB/GYNs.
  • This bill does not include any exception for the health of the woman.
  • This bill also removes current regulations that protect nurse practitioners who perform abortions.
  • No amendment can save this bill. It needs to be ITL’d.

SENATE

We can both reinforce victims’ rights and protect the constitutional rights of the accused by selectively amending CACR 22, also known as “Marsy’s Law.”

  • Call-to-Action: TBD
  • Public Hearing was on February 6, 2018.
  • Senate Committee Contact info: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/committees/committee_details.aspx...
  • The current language in CACR 22 raises serious constitutional concerns. It risks violating the constitutional rights of the accused under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
  • Provides zero guidance to judges and courts as to how to reconcile conflicts between the rights of victims and the constitutional rights of the accused who retain the presumption of innocence. This risks confusion, cases being overturned on appeal, and U.S. constitutional rights being denied.
    • Our victims’ rights statute addresses this specific concern by specifying that victims’ rights shall be enforced “to the extent that they can be reasonably guaranteed by the courts and by law enforcement and correctional authorities, and are not inconsistent with the constitutional or statutory rights of the accused, crime victims are entitled to the following rights.”
    • This or similar language must be included in CACR 22.
  • This is not a zero-sum game. We can both reinforce victims’ rights and protect the constitutional rights of the accused.
  • With changes to the proposed language, we can both provide constitutional rights to victims and protect the constructional rights of the accused, thereby preserving the integrity and efficacy of our judicial system. 

Thank you for taking the time to call your elected officials. If we don’t hold them accountable to protecting our civil rights, then no one will – take action today!

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