As the 2023 legislative session comes to a close, we reflect on the progress we made, progress we defended, and the work that is to come for women and girls in New Hampshire:
A BUDGET THAT INVESTS IN MATERNAL HEALTH AND CHILD CARE
We are thrilled that the legislature passed and Governor Sununu signed into law a budget that makes significant investments in maternal health and child care. The Women’s Foundation was proud to support inclusion of the ‘MOMnibus Act’ in the budget which expanded Medicaid pregnancy eligibility from two months postpartum to 12 months postpartum; provided Medicaid coverage for lactation support, doula services and donor milk bank and much more. And we were proud to support ‘The Child Care for Working Families Act’ which makes child care more affordable for low-income families, improves the funding formula for child care centers, and creates a child care worker sign-on and retention bonus program.
Women make the economy work. But pregnant women and women with kids need access to maternal health care through the postpartum period to remain healthy and they need reliable access to affordable child care to return to the work that makes our communities thrive.
DEFENDING ABORTION ACCESS (HB 88, SB 181, HB 271, and HB 224)
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion, leaving abortion rights up to the states. Abortion is legal in New Hampshire, but in June 2021, Governor Sununu signed the first abortion ban in modern history, banning abortion after 24 weeks. The Granite State is the only state in New England that has NOT protected the right to abortion in state law. The Women’s Foundation supported several bills to codify the right to abortion and limit the harm done by the current 24 week abortion ban:
- The Women’s Foundation supported the “Access to Abortion Act” which would have codified the right to abortion in New Hampshire up to 24 weeks.
- We again supported the full repeal of the 24-week abortion ban.
- We advocated to reduce the harm done by the abortion ban through a bill that would have eliminated the criminal and civil penalties that target providers and creates a chilling effect in the medical field.
Many legislators were clearly impacted by Granite Staters’ widely popular support for abortion rights, and we are encouraged by very narrow votes in the House that got us close to these goals, but were all ultimately unsuccessful. The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation will continue to advocate for policies that protect abortion rights.
ENSURING ACCESS TO MENSTRUAL HYGIENE PRODUCTS (SB 209, HB 421, and HB 129)
Women in our state, county, and juvenile correctional facilities deserve free, timely, and reliable access to menstrual products that provide basic human dignity without concern for safety or stigma. Currently, some county jails provide insufficient access to menstrual hygiene products. The Women’s Foundation was proud to champion the bill, signed into law by Governor Sununu, that brings county jails and youth detention facilities up to a reasonable standard.
In 2019, the Women’s Foundation supported a bill to ensure that public Middle and High Schools offered menstrual hygiene products in girls and gender-neutral bathrooms. This law reduced stigma, lost class and school time, and contributed to greater access for menstrual equity. This session, an effort to water down the existing law was thwarted by the Women’s Foundation and many returning advocates from 2019 to make sure girls have free and equitable access to menstrual hygiene products.
STATE/LOCAL SOLUTIONS TO THE CHILD CARE CRISIS (SB 221)
We know the women who serve their communities at the local level are looking for ways to make child care more accessible and affordable in their communities. The Women’s Foundation was proud to support SB 221 that would enable municipalities to opt-in to a program to refund child care providers certain local property taxes. Unfortunately this bill did not pass.
INCREASING MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS (SB 151)
Girls have higher rates of anxiety and depression than boys and also have higher rates of considering suicide and making a plan to commit suicide. The Women’s Foundation supported a bill championed by the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council that would require schools to provide mental health education while allowing schools the flexibility to determine the specifics of the instruction and curriculum. This bill passed the Senate but unfortunately did not make it past the House.
DEFENDING TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX PEOPLE IN SCHOOLS AND CORRECTIONS (HB 396)
An extreme bill was introduced this session that would identify a “state interest” in binary sex compromising the inclusion and safety for trans, nonbinary and intersex communities in academics, bathrooms and locker rooms, and corrections and lead to potential violations of Title IX. We strongly opposed this bill and were pleased that this bill failed.
We were pleased to work collaboratively with newly elected and incumbent legislators on policies that improve the lives of women and girls in New Hampshire this session, and look forward to making more progress next year.
Keep up with all of our legislative work on our Legislation Page.