House Negotiators Agree To Abortion Ban, School Vouchers

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — House negotiators on Monday agreed with the Senate’s proposal to include a ban on late-term abortions and a school voucher program in the state budget.

On Friday, the team of negotiators from both chambers quickly agreed to move forward with the Senate’s $13.5 billion, two-year spending plan. On Monday, work began on the accompanying bill that makes policy changes to support the spending as well as numerous unrelated measures.

Those included a ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy added by the Senate, and a House-backed provision requiring state-funded health clinics to maintain a physical and financial separation between abortion and other services. House negotiators acceded to the Senate on the abortion ban without debate, but the two sides delayed action until later this week on the language related to separation of services.

There likewise was no debate when House lawmakers agreed to the Senate’s addition of voucher-like “education freedom accounts” that could be used toward private or home school expenses. Proponents have argued that they will provide school choice to low-income families, while opponents argue such a system would siphon money from public schools while providing no oversight of the education provided by private institutions that are free to discriminate against applicants.

The committee of conference also put off discussion of a much-debated provision related to education and race. The House version, which sought to ban discussion of “divisive concepts” in schools echoes an executive order issued by former President Donald Trump that was rescinded by President Joe Biden on Jan. 20. The Senate version, pitched as an effort to strengthen anti-discrimination laws, would prohibit teaching children that they’re inferior, racist, sexist or oppressive by virtue of their race, gender or other characteristics.

Gov. Chris Sununu opposed the House language but has been more open to the Senate version. And though he considers himself pro-choice, he said he would not veto the budget over the late-term abortion ban.