Sep. 23—JAFFREY — Democratic Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington had some sharp words for Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday after he compared New Hampshire's abortion restrictions to those in place elsewhere.
This issue wasn't on the agenda for the panel's meeting at Jaffrey Airport, but it's not unusual for the topic of reproductive care to be discussed by the council, which shares executive responsibility with the governor but doesn't pass or sign laws.
New Hampshire's law prohibits most abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The GOP governor and Warmington, of Concord, the only Democrat on the five-member council, are both up for re-election, and abortion has been a key issue this election season after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure in June.
At one point in Wednesday's meeting, Councilor Janet Stevens, of Rye, asked Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, to define the abortion limit in effect in New Hampshire.
Shibinette mentioned the 24-week time frame, and Sununu chimed in, "24 weeks, the same as Massachusetts, the same as New York."
Those states make an exception for the pregnant woman's health while New Hampshire makes an exception when there is a medical emergency in which "a pregnant woman's life or a major bodily function is threatened."
Warmington told Sununu the abortion restriction he approved last year fails to adequately protect women's health and puts doctors in untenable situations.
"When the mother comes in and she's hemorrhaging, a doctor has to sit there and make a decision about whether we're talking, 'Is this mother going to die, is there a 100 percent chance she's going to die, or is it 90 percent?'
"That doctor then has to make that decision and make that decision with an awareness that he or she might go to jail if they make the wrong call. So it is not the same as Massachusetts."
Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire all have an exception to allow for abortions after 24 weeks when there is a fatal fetal anomaly.
Violations of New Hampshire's abortion law are classified as class B felonies, which carry the possibility of prison time. Potential fines of up to $100,000 are also specified in the law.
Warmington, whose district takes in much of the Monadnock Region, urged Sununu to stop making comparisons that she feels are invalid.
"You need to stop saying that," she said. "You're misleading the public. You have a ban that is endangering the lives of women in our state, and you need to stop saying that it is the same as Massachusetts."
Sununu replied, "Further discussion?" and the panel moved on.
Rick Green can be reached at email@example.com or 603-355-8567.