New Hampshire’s statutory definition of “physician’s office” has apparently been a factor in shielding abortion facilities from oversight, according to a recent report in the state’s largest-circulation newspaper.
In a front page story on May19 credited to a team of reporters, the New Hampshire Sunday News ran an article under the headline “Officials say NH abortion sites need scrutiny.” Among those interviewed for the story was Kris Neilsen, communications director for DHHS. Neilsen explained New Hampshire’s medical-regulatory situation.
“Kris Neilsen, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services, explained in an email that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood and the Concord Feminist Health Center are exempt from state licensing and inspection requirements because they are considered physician offices. Twenty-three health care providers such as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and dialysis centers are licensed by the state, but not abortion clinics. ‘In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as an abortion clinic – the majority of abortions are done in doctors offices … and doctors’ offices are exempt from licensure under RSA 151:2 II,’ Neilsen said.
‘Because they are exempt, we have no jurisdiction over them, and neither does anyone else.’” [emphasis added]
The Sunday News article was published shortly after the conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania for multiple crimes including the murder of three born-alive babies. Gosnell reportedly worked without state oversight or inspection for a number of years.
New Hampshire’s freestanding abortion providers include Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which operates multiple facilities around the state; the Joan G. Lovering Health Center in Greenland; and the Feminist Health Center in Concord. Each of those agencies have opposed bills that would require inspection for abortion providers or strengthen informed consent requirements for women seeking abortion. Most recently, all three agencies worked for the defeat of HB 483, an informed consent measure.
A list of other New Hampshire abortion providers is not publicly available. The state does not mandate the collection of abortion statistics, leaving the public in the dark about the number of abortions, the providers, and any adverse effects on post-abortive women. The state also puts no limit on abortion at any point in pregnancy, although the legislature in 2012 enacted a ban on one particular abortion method (partial-birth). Representatives of the three freestanding facilities have testified that they do not provide late-term abortions, although there has been no independent verification of that claim.
In the absence of regulation and oversight, it is unclear which data support Neilsen’s statement that “the majority of abortions are done in doctors [sic] offices”.
Note: the New Hampshire Sunday News is a publication of the Union Leader Corporation.
For further coverage of prolife policy developments in New Hampshire, check out the Leaven for the Loaf blog.