SB 181: two hours of testimony; vote not yet scheduled

As abortion supporters carried signs outside the hearing room, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee took two hours of testimony today on SB 181, a bill to declare abortion “vital to the liberty and equality of all individuals” and to put it beyond the reach of state regulation. Chief sponsor Sen. Rebecca Perkins-Kwoka (D-Portsmouth) said that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Dobbs decision, “millions [of women] across the country…lose their rights.”

SB 181 supporters outside Senate hearing

Kwoka assured her fellow senators that her bill would not change any law, leaving the Fetal Life Protection Act and its 24-week abortion limit in place. What she didn’t tell her fellow senators is that a separate bill is pending to repeal FLPA.

The full hearing may be viewed on YouTube, at the New Hampshire Senate Livestream. Look for Senate Judiciary’s hearing for 1/31/23, beginning near timestamp 1:47:00.

Robert Dunn testified late in the hearing (at timestamp 3:18:00 of the YouTube video). He’s Director of Public Policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. “This is a Senate bill that wants to be a CACR [constitutional amendment],” he said, and he’s absolutely right. The sponsors of SB 181 are using the bill as a backstop in case they can’t get an amendment in place to enshrine abortion in the New Hampshire constitution. A statute is much easier to amend or repeal than a constitutional provision – but one way or another, abortion advocates are determined to turn back the clock to before Dobbs and FLPA.

Recognizing the humanity of both mother and child, Dunn continued with a warning that SB 181 could “resonate in other circumstances….Human dignity and solidarity are beset with challenges. To say that certain human beings are beyond the pale…is not something that in my view is going to help advance the cause of human dignity and human rights in other contexts.”

Bravo, sir.

“Access to abortion care” bill in Senate Committee January 31

[Edited to correct penalty provision of bill]

Do you think that abortion is “vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals”? The sponsors of SB 181-FN think so, and they’ll be in front of the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee this week to make their case. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31, at 2 p.m. in room 100 on the first floor of the State House in Concord.

Let the committee hear from you

You can register your opinion on the bill online anytime before the hearing by using the state senate’s remote sign-in sheet. The Senate provides a sheet of directions for the remote sign-in process. For anyone planning to attend the hearing in person, the Senate guidelines for testifying at a public hearing are useful. If the hearing runs long, as is often the case on life-issue bills, signing in online and submitting written testimony are good ways to let the committee know where you stand, even of you can’t stay at the hearing until its end.

What the bill says

SB 181-FN, the so-called “Access to abortion care” bill, states “it shall be the public policy of New Hampshire that, because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals, the state shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy,” except as provided in the Fetal Life Protection Act and the law regarding parental notification for minors seeking abortion. An individual “injured” as a result of violation of “access to abortion care” would be able to get an injunction and to be awarded costs and legal fees.

The sponsors of SB 181 include all ten Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth). There are five House co-sponsors.

What the bill means

If access to abortion becomes New Hampshire policy “because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals,” say goodbye to any effort to prevent public funds from being used directly for abortion. Conscience protections for health care personnel, already rejected repeatedly by legislators, would be further away than ever. So would informed consent legislation. If FLPA is repealed – as every sponsor of SB 181 would be pleased to see – then SB 181’s FLPA exception would be moot, and abortion in New Hampshire would once again be legal throughout pregnancy.

There will be a constitutional amendment introduced this session that would achieve everything SB 181 seeks. This bill would serve as a fallback if the constitutional amendment were to fail; SB 181 can be passed with a simple legislative majority while a constitutional change would require a three-fifths majority.

Bottom line: go online and sign in OPPOSED to SB 181-FN. If your district’s senator is on the Judiciary Committee, let that senator know where you stand. Committee members are Sharon Carson (chair; R-Londonderry), Bill Gannon (vice-chair; R-Sandown), Daryl Abbas (R-Salem), Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), and Rebecca Whitley (D-Hopkinton).

Hearings January 25 on abortion stats and facility audit bills

New Hampshire legislators will soon introduce an abortion statistics bill, HB 582-FN, which will be considered by the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) committee. The same committee will also consider HB 615-FN, requiring independent audits of reproductive health facilities. (The “FN” suffix indicates a fiscal note, and those letters may be omitted in references to the bills.) According to the House calendar released yesterday, the bills will have their hearings on Wednesday, January 25 at 2:00 p.m. for HB 582 and 2:45 p.m. for HB 615. Before heading to Concord, check the General Court website, gencourt.state.nh.us, for any updates or cancellations due to weather.

The hearings will be in the Legislative Office Building in Concord, rooms 210-211. See this blog’s Legislative Tool Kit for information about attending hearings and submitting testimony.

Action item: register your opinion on the bills online now, even days before the hearing, and your response will reach all committee members. Use the House Online Testimony form, which lets you record a simple “I support” or “I oppose” on bills. (I’ll be supporting them both.) You may submit written testimony, but it is not required on that form. Your name, position (support/oppose), and any testimony you submit online will be visible to the general public. On the Online Testimony page, enter “January 25” for the date and “House Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs” as the committee, and you will see a drop-down menu with a list of all the bills being heard by HHS that day. Click on the appropriate bill number and then follow the directions on the resulting screen.

Even if you cannot attend the hearing, the advance online sign-in is critical in order to get the committee members’ attention and to encourage the sponsors of the bills.

Regarding HB 582, New Hampshire is one of the few states that does not collect abortion statistics and report aggregate data (not personally-identifying) to the public and the federal Centers for Disease Control. I’m losing track of the number of years the House has considered and rejected this women’s health measure at the urging of abortion advocates. HB 582 is years overdue. Chief sponsor is Rep. Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), joined by three co-sponsors.

HB 615 would ensure clarity in how Medicaid funds (which includes family planning funds) are used by abortion providers. From the bill’s official analysis: “This bill provides that state funds awarded to reproductive health care facilities shall be limited to the minimum amount necessary for participation in the Medicaid program. The bill also requires state contracts with certain reproductive health care facilities to include provisions indicating that state funds shall not be used to subsidize abortion and that the facility shall undergo an independent audit, the results of which will be provided to the executive council prior to taking action on the contract.” Chief sponsor is Rep. Jess Edwards (R-Auburn), and he is joined by seven co-sponsors.

Abortion recovery leader: “be my ambassadors, please”

Kathy Hill of Massachusetts works with post-abortive women seeking counseling and healing. She was the featured speaker at last weekend’s march for life in Concord, organized annually by New Hampshire Right to Life.

She said that on average, a woman who has had an abortion has only five people in her life who know about it. It’s often a secret. “She tries to disconnect from her story. Unfortunately, those triggers come back. Every [post-abortive] mother’s heart knows that she’s lost her child.”

Hill is a facilitator for Surrendering the Secret, an abortion recovery program, and is regional coordinator for Silent No More Awareness. The latter program is for women who regret their abortions and want to give public testimony about their experiences.

In Surrendering the Secret, she has worked with clients whose abortions were anywhere from two weeks to more than 40 years ago. The women are from all ages, races, and economic levels. Sixty percent claim religious affiliation, and according to Hill, “they want to hear the word ‘abortion’ from the pulpits” – otherwise they think what they’ve done is so horrible that even their pastors can’t utter the word. 

Nine out of 10 post-abortive women aren’t aware that post-abortion healing programs exist. “Be my ambassadors, please,” urged Hill. She suggested looking at the Silent No More Awareness website to hear from some of the women who have recorded their testimonies. “Share what you learn.”



About 250 people marched from the State House plaza down Concord’s Main Street to Christ the King church hall for New Hampshire’s first post-Roe march for life. An overcast near-freezing day didn’t stop families from coming out for the observance.

Fr. Christian Tutor of NHRTL Education Trust spoke to the crowd before the march began. On encountering people who reject the right to life, he advised, “They no longer have to be in the darkness that governments or organizations say they have to be in. This is what we need to share. All of us can have mercy.” He urged peaceful action at all times, especially in the face of abuse: “say ‘I’ll pray for you.'”

Peaceful action marked the day. One police officer was on the plaza for the pre-march rally; he later got into a patrol car and drove up Main Street a couple of blocks at a time to guide traffic. There were no counterdemonstrators in front of the Equality Center on Main Street, and therefore no directions to the pro-life marchers to circle the block to avoid them, as has been the case during some past marches.

At the church hall after Mass, marchers were warmed by a lunch of soup and sandwiches, served by volunteers including sisters from Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love. (They will always be The Running Nuns to me, even though their apostolate has changed since the days when they offered a successful racing/running program for behaviorally-challenged kids.)

Kurt Wuelper of NHRTL-PAC listed six pieces of state-level legislation that the PAC would monitor this year. The PAC will oppose CACR 2, enacting state-constitutional protection for abortion; HB 224, removing penalties for violations of the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA); and HB 271, repealing FLPA altogether. The PAC will support HB 591, a heartbeat bill that would amount to a post-six-week abortion limitation; HB 562, informed consent for abortion; and HB 346, a born-alive bill. (Watch this blog for coverage of these bills. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.)

“Dobbs has opened the door – that’s all it did – to enable us to have the conversations” about life, said Wuelper. A former state representative from Strafford County, he chalks up his loss last year to redistricting, and he said the loss gives him more time to concentrate on the pro-life work he’s doing now.

Jason Hennessey, NHRTL president, noted the pro-life victories achieved in recent years, including the Executive Council rejecting contracts with abortion providers. “The Executive Council has been amazing.” He cited passage of FPLA, and applauded the end of efforts by Manchester’s Catholic Medical Center to pursue an affiliation with abortion-friendly Dartmouth Health. “Abortion isn’t health care.” He stressed the importance of effective messaging, and said that NHRTL would be offering training in how to testify at hearings on life-issue bills and policies.

Norm Thibault, campaign leader for 40 Days for Life in Manchester, announced that the next campaign will begin on February 22, with signups for vigil hours available now (see 40daysforlife.com).

Ron Bourque of the Knights of Columbus in Salem presented Fr. Tutor with a $5000 donation to the NHRTL Educational Trust. The Salem council has raised funds to donate nine ultrasound machines to pregnancy care centers in the region, as far north as Littleton.

Right to life as a “niche ideological issue”

Political parties, like fire, make good servants and awful masters. I’ve discoursed on this at some length elsewhere, so I’ll try to keep this brief.

The most recent edition of the New Hampshire Sunday News featured an op-ed column from a gentleman well-known in New Hampshire political circles. He’s supportive of many Republicans, and he has his own communications consulting firm. His essays are often featured in the Union Leader/ NH Sunday News.

His recent column touted the announced goals of the Republican majorities in the state Senate. The headline cheerfully blared “Senate GOP puts NH families first”. The column went on to list the policy priorities announced by leaders of the Senate majority at a recent press conference.

Economic issues came first, including a balanced state budget that protects both vulnerable populations as well as taxpayers (there’s overlap there, but I’ll let that pass for now). Then came the rest of the cars on the agenda train: targeted education aid, respect for parental rights and children’s education options, lower electric rates, improved broadband access, solutions to homelessness and housing, improving the state’s mental health services system, and protecting the environment.

I see laudable goals, some of them overdue, even if they might give small-government conservatives fits. But did you notice something missing? The columnist has you covered. “Absent from their agenda are niche ideological issues and special interest appeals.”

I assume that one of those “niche ideological issues” dismissed by the columnist and the Senate is the right to life.

Tough luck, ladies and gentlemen. The minority party has already introduced legislation to lock abortion into the New Hampshire constitution and statutes. There’s also a bill to repeal the Fetal Life Protection Act altogether. The right to life is on your agenda whether you like it or not. If you think stressing the economy is going to get you past that fact, take a look at the last election.

Voters who are both Republican and pro-life might want to remind their party that they don’t fit into a niche. They can be grateful for the timely reminder from the columnist that no one can count on a political party to defend the right to life during State House debates. Count instead on individuals willing to buck their party in order to defend that basic right, without which all the other policy goals are just so much vote-buying.

NH Sunday News link (possibly paywalled): https://www.unionleader.com/opinion/columnists/patrick-hynes-senate-gop-puts-nh-families-first/article_42286be4-e93e-51e1-97af-87046e9e3339.html

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