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New Hampshire Considers Defunding Planned Parenthood, Weakening Domestic Violence Laws

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New Hampshire's 2012 legislative session has not been a good one for women so far. House Republicans passed an amendment on Wednesday that would defund Planned Parenthood, the only affordable health care option for many of the state's low-income women, and lawmakers will consider two bills Thursday that seriously weaken the New Hampshire's domestic violence laws.

The Tea Party-dominated New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207 to 147 on Wednesday morning to pass a bill prohibiting the state from using public funding for any group that provides abortion services, capping a year-long quest by state Republican leaders to pass such a bill. The legislation -- which was pushed through without a public hearing -- still has to go before the Republican-controlled Senate and Gov. John Lynch (D) to go into effect.

The legislation was written by the Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defense Fund, two conservative leaning national groups seeking to stop abortion in the United States. Shortly after the vote, the groups issued a statement taking credit for the bill.

"The House-passed bill ensures that taxpayer funds are prioritized to entities dedicated to providing comprehensive health care to women, not abortion," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. "This is a great victory in what has become a nationwide battle to stop taxpayer funding of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood provides pap smears, breast exams, STD screening and low-cost contraception to uninsured women across the state, and reports that abortions account for less than 3 percent of its services.

"New Hampshire has a 40-year bipartisan history of supporting publicly-funded family planning services and working to reduce abortion by ensuring access to birth control, cancer screening and preventive care," said Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy advisor for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "The actions of Republican leaders in the N.H. House abandon this tradition and pose dangerous threats to women’s health."

The Planned Parenthood defunding amendment is attached to a bill that would ban public employee insurance plans from covering abortions. House Speaker Bill O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon) has made the legislation a priority.

New Hampshire lawmakers will also consider two bills on Thursday that would roll back the state's domestic violence laws, which up until now have been the strongest in the country. House Bill 1581, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont), would prevent law enforcement from being able to immediately arrest an abuser who has assaulted his partner unless the officer has actually witnessed the crime take place. Under current law, the police can arrest an abuser based on probable cause.

"This means that if 911 has been called, and they see a victim who was assaulted and is bleeding, they wouldn't be able to arrest that person unless they went back and got a warrant," explained Amanda Grady, director of public policy for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "This is how it was in late-'70s before states decided to put victim protections in place."

The other domestic violence bill, House Bill 1608, limits the grounds for which an officer can arrest an abuser who violates a domestic violence protective order. The law enforcement community in New Hampshire, including the Dept. of Safety, Attorney General's office, and Chiefs of Police Association, and domestic violence workers are all vehemently opposed to the bill.

According to state statistics, 38 percent of homicides in 2011 were domestic violence-related, and the vast majority of domestic violence cases were perpetrated by men again women.

"The passage of [these laws] will likely result in further injuries and could possibly have lethal consequences for victims and their children," Grady told HuffPost.

None of the three House Republicans who sponsored the domestic violence bills returned multiple requests for comment from The Huffington Post.

Maggie Hassan, the Democratic candidate for governor in New Hampshire, said she is "outraged" about the bills on behalf of New Hampshire's women and would likely veto them all if she were elected.

"New Hampshire women are like citizens everywhere -- they just want to be able to participate
in economic and civic life," she said. "When you deny them basic health care or basic public safety protections, you really turn your back on them as citizens."

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