By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 15, 2011, I vetoed HB 329.
I support parental notification and parental involvement in a minor's decision to seek an abortion. The decision whether to complete a pregnancy or seek an abortion is a serious and life-changing one for any pregnant woman. Minors need and benefit from the support and guidance of their parents.
However, any law must make reasonable allowances for cases where that is not possible. I am particularly troubled by the lack of an exception for the victims of rape, incest and abuse. If the legislature works with me on this change and the other limited, common-sense changes outlined in this message, I would sign parental notification legislation.
First, a young woman should not be forced to involve the person that abused her in the first place in this decision. That is why of the 36 states that require some form of parental involvement, 16 include exceptions from notification for rape or incest or abuse. There must be an exception for rape, incest and abuse in any parental notification law in New Hampshire.
Second, some of the provisions of this legislation are unclear and too narrow. The health exception does not allow a physician to sufficiently exercise his or her best medical judgment and proceed with an abortion when a delay will create a grave and immediate risk to the minor's health.
For example, when a physician sees a minor patient who is hemorrhaging, the physician may not be able to definitively determine whether a delay in performing an abortion would result in the irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, even if the physician has determined that there is surely a grave and immediate risk to the minor's health.
The bill's medical emergency provision requires a physician to determine in a very short time frame that a delay will create a serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. That standard is narrow, complex and unworkable. It is difficult for a physician - at any point in time - to be certain that a delay will present a "serious risk" that there will be both a "substantial and irreversible" impairment of a major bodily function. If the physician chooses not go forward with the abortion because of uncertainty of the risk, the minor's health could be affected. If the physician performs the abortion and is wrong in that determination, then he or she is subject to criminal liability. The medical emergency standard now in HB 329 needs to allow physicians to exercise their full professional judgment based on all the potential serious health impacts to their patients.
Lastly, this bill subjects medical professionals to potential imprisonment and civil lawsuits without giving medical providers sufficient guidance on how to comply with the law. The law should include clear standards on what information must be collected from the minor and what records should be kept.
Because this legislation lacks an exception for rape and incest, and for the other reasons I have articulated, I am vetoing HB 329.
If the legislature passes a bill that addresses these concerns, then I am prepared to sign a parental notification law.