The state budget – and what comes after

You need to get out on those sidewalks outside where abortions are happening. Abortions aren’t going on in the halls of Congress. Abby Johnson once said this to a room full of New Hampshire activists. Another time, in a very brief exchange with me, she was impatient when I mentioned the political work to which I’m drawn. “Politics isn’t going to end this,” she said, “this” meaning abortion and all its detritus.

And yet I stay involved in politics. I know what happens when we concede the arena to politicians unwilling to accept or defend the right to life. More than once, I’ve heard “how did we get here?” from stunned neighbors who have just realized how abortion-friendly is our state’s political culture.

One vote at a time, that’s how. Course correction will come the same way.

So what does this have to do with the state budget? First, the last budget proposal was not encouraging as far as the right to life and conscience rights are concerned. Second, I need to remember that passage of an abortion-friendly state budget will need to be met with something more than hand-wringing.

Year in and year out, the budget is dominated by health and human services spending. Yet without a systemic commitment to the right to life – not something assigned as a privilege, but recognized as a right – then all the spending is just so much vote-buying, swaying with the vagaries of political fashion.

I see much online cheering for the final implementation of the federal rule barring abortion providers from getting Title X family planning funds. At the risk of being the skunk at the garden party, I’ll remind you that the proposed state budget passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate includes a dramatic increase in family planning money from state general funds, to offset any loss of federal funds to abortion providers who are also Title X contractors.

And then there’s the line in the House/Senate budget that repeals the previous prohibition on the use of state general funds for abortion.

Yes, Governor Sununu vetoed that budget. He never cited the abortion language as a reason, although he found plenty else to complain about. Reports on recent budget negotiations include nothing about removing the abortion language.

The Governor does not have line-item veto power in New Hampshire. It’s all-or-nothing when it comes to the budget. I am sure neither the Governor nor any of his staffers will dispute me when I say that he unlikely to veto a budget over abortion funding, if negotiations resolve all his other concerns.

(Pending a resolution of the budget impasse, the state is operating on a continuing resolution that basically continues spending at the same level on the same items as the last budget, which expired on June 30. The government is not shut down.)

So here we are, in the political position New Hampshire pro-lifers know best: underfoot. This brings me back to that sharp reminder I got from Abby Johnson: politics isn’t going to end the carnage – not by itself, anyway. I’m not suggesting taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers is unimportant. I am saying that whatever the state budget eventually looks like, good or bad, the most important pro-life work is going to go on without regard to any negotiations at the State House.

After the state budget is signed, pregnancy care centers are still going to be going about their business. They need volunteers, board members, executive directors, medical staffers. They need diapers and wipes and car seats and office supplies. You don’t need to vote for that. You can just do it.

After the budget is signed, we’re still going to have – eventually – a loved one or a neighbor or a child’s classmate who’ll face pregnancy and won’t know where to turn. You can be a voice of hope. You don’t need to sport an “I voted” sticker to do that.

After the budget is signed, bigotry against people with disabilities will still be real and dangerous. The attitude “better dead than disabled” will need pushback over and over again. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities will be at risk of “termination” on those grounds alone. You can demonstrate how to affirm human dignity, particularly if you’re living with disability or an adverse diagnosis. You might want to share your story with one of your elected officials, because nothing beats a personal story to get a message across.

After the budget is signed, you might still be called to be a peaceful pro-life witness in a public place. You might be called to put your professional skill at the service of life-affirming ministries. You might be called to a routine of prayer that’s new to you.

Imagine all this going on regardless of who’s in charge at the State House or who’s rallying outside a hearing. Now open your eyes: it’s all happening.

Let’s encourage each other.

4 thoughts on “The state budget – and what comes after

  1. I’m writing this in response to a question from a reader who asked that I not post it.

    Why can’t the Governor simply move funds away from abortion providers in the state budget? Under the New Hampshire constitution, the Governor can’t do that, on his own. He has to come to an agreement with House and Senate on the budget as a whole. What he could do is make abortion funding a topic for open debate and discussion, taking advantage of his “bully pulpit,” to borrow a term from Theodore Roosevelt. Whether the Governor is having such discussions privately with House and Senate members is something we can’t know.

    What can you do if you’re not praying publicly outside abortion facilities? Pray privately, or with partners from your faith community. Uphold in prayer everyone involved in abortion, from preborn child to parent to abortion provider. Pray for all who serve in government. Pray for courage, changed hearts, and mercy.

    Beyond that, here are some ideas. None will be suitable for everyone, but I hope at least one will work for you.

    If you’re of a craft-y persuasion, check with your local pro-life facility and ask what’s needed. Maybe baby blankets will come in handy, or shawls for moms, or hats for anyone from newborns to toddlers to older family members. I know my own parish has a knitting group that makes items for such needs.

    If you have modest means, consider setting aside $5 to $10 a month for a package of disposable diapers (or better yet, toddler-size disposable training pants) for your nearest pregnancy care center. Even a single package of baby wipes can be put to good use. More expensive items may be needed, and perhaps a group of people could combine resources to acquire what the local pregnancy care center needs: car seats, strollers, furniture.

    Volunteer, if you’re able to work outside your home. Every part of the pro-life spectrum offers opportunities. Pregnancy care centers might be looking for help in programs ranging from post-abortion ministry to client services to mentorship for young parents. Hospitals might be looking for volunteers to spend some time in a rocking chair soothing babies affected by exposure to drugs in utero. The possibilities are endless.

    Write for your local publication, either with a letter to the editor (which is still a thing, even in the online age) or a longer opinion piece. Promote the right to life with love, mercy, and clarity. Sometimes that will mean responding to a news story that does just the opposite.

    Whatever you do, do it in authentic love.
    Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s