NH abortion stats (and lack thereof) in the news

A front-page news item in one of New Hampshire’s best-known media outlets underscores something readers of this blog have known all along: reliable, objective abortion statistics are hard to come by in the Granite State.

The New Hampshire Sunday News for July 31 had a front-page article by Michael Cousineau headlined “NH clinics, foes weigh impact of Roe v. Wade reversal.” (The full article is available online but might be paywalled.) In the course of writing the piece, the reporter prefaced information supplied by New Hampshire abortion providers with a necessary qualifier: “Getting information on the number of abortions in New Hampshire and demographics about those patients is difficult. New Hampshire is one of only three states (along with California and Maryland) that don’t compile and report such statistics to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

He quoted Jason Hennessey of New Hampshire Right to Life. “It’s a vital statistic, just like births and deaths. It’s a number we should be keeping track of like 47 other states do.”

This is one policy initiative that needs to keep coming back to the General Court until legislators finally get it right. With or without Dobbs and Roe, the collection of objective abortion statistics and distribution of aggregated data is essential as a matter of public health. Women’s health. Self-reporting by abortion providers is a lousy basis for public policy.

I think we’re up to nine stats bills that have failed in New Hampshire since 2002. Any policymaker who wants to look at past efforts should start with the best one, HB 629 from 2015-16, when the study committee headed by Rep. Bill Nelson did the deepest dive to date on the technical aspects of stats collection. That bill got past the House on a voice vote but died on a tie vote in the Senate; I reported at the time on that disappointment.

Enough already. Let’s get a stats law.

We’re in the post-Roe era

Today, the sun is setting on the era of Roe.

For those of you in a hurry: the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its Dobbs opinion, and Roe v. Wade is overturned along with its successor Casey decision. Abortion regulation is to be left to the states. Peruse the giant-sized decision at your leisure.

For those who want a deeper dive, I have some thoughts for your consideration.

The leaker and the bullies lost

Whoever leaked the draft opinion – and I’ll maintain all my days that it was an abortion-friendly Court clerk – lost a huge gamble. It backfired, even if the initial reaction was all the leaker could have hoped for. The leak sparked outrage among abortion advocates. Justices were doxxed and home addresses were made public. There was an assassination plan against Justice Kavanaugh. Bullies felt emboldened.

Five Justices stood up to all that. The vote was 5 to overturn Roe, 3 opposed, and a vote by the Chief Justice to uphold Mississippi’s law while still upholding Roe. (So that’s what a cut-rate Solomon sounds like.) Here’s to Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

The bullying might not be over, and we might see it close to home. Time will tell. The Court has just given a powerful example of how to face it.

The Court did not recognize the fundamental right to life

Absolutely nothing in Dobbs‘ majority opinion recognized the fundamental right to life of each human being from the moment of conception.

I have worked my entire adult life for our laws to recognize human dignity, to support mothers as well as children, to reject eugenics, to defend conscience rights for health care workers who want nothing to do with abortion.

And here I am, cheering a decision that does none of that. We have been conditioned to set the bar low and then cheer when we clear it.

Thanks be to God that Roe was not affirmed. We move on from there.

New Hampshire remains abortion-friendly, for now

All that State House action I’ve been writing about since 2012 will keep right on going. The Dobbs decision returns abortion regulation to the states, meaning the people we elect to be our state representatives and senators and executive councilors and (God help us) governors will still be the ones to call the shots on our behalf.

New Hampshire law still permits eugenic abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. That won’t change. In fact, the Mississippi law upheld by the Court today had a 15-week abortion limit, with a eugenic exception. Preborn children with life-limiting diagnoses are not protected.

The New Hampshire constitution could still be amended to protect abortion – or the constitution’s “privacy” amendment could be construed by our state Supreme Court to accomplish the same thing.

New Hampshire legislators have repeatedly rejected conscience protections for health care workers who choose not to be involved in abortion. That’s okay under Dobbs.

Our parental notification statutes and ban on partial-birth abortion could be repealed by our legislature. That’s okay under Dobbs, too.

Buffer zone laws consistent with past Court decisions will remain on the books. So will unenforced buffer zone laws like New Hampshire’s.

Also fine and dandy under Dobbs: refusal to collect abortion statistics – refusal to require making sonogram images available (not mandated, but available) to abortion-minded women – giving state dollars to abortion providers.

In other words, citizen activists will still need to beat a path to hearings in Concord every single session. If they don’t, abortion advocates will prevail. Simple as that.

Pregnancy care centers will become more crucial than ever

The growth and strengthening of the network of pregnancy care centers in New Hampshire has been a bright spot in Granite State culture. These abortion-free agencies go far beyond crisis pregnancy management. They support pregnant and parenting women and their partners as far as resources allow, with most of those resources coming from private donors.

Ironically, in the days following the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion, some of those pregnancy care centers in other states were subject to attacks.

In the face of opposition, it’s time to redouble the efforts that have brought pregnancy care networks this far.

At least one party will handle Dobbs to its advantage

Indie voter speaking here: please, GOP, don’t screw this up by dodging Dobbs.

The Democrat party, from its national leadership down to its New Hampshire town committees, has been consistent in its abortion-friendly messaging. As an activist, I recognize political savvy when I see it, even if it’s in the service of something dreadful. Look for apocalyptic pronouncements from candidates about how Dobbs undermines women and threatens the Republic. Look for tightly-focused attacks on any Republican who’s squishy on the right to life.

As for those squishy Republicans, if their response to Dobbs is to try to shift focus to inflation and the economy, they’ll get what they deserve. Unfortunately, so will their constituents. Then the Dobbs-dodging candidates will wonder why 40% of New Hampshire voters refuse formal affiliation with either party.

Nonviolence: walk the talk

Public pro-life witness is likely to become riskier. Our response to provocation has to be more than “be nice.” It’s time to move past talking about nonviolence as a mere theoretical tactic.

Are you ready to surrender your natural right to self-defense if you’re physically attacked for defending life? Are you ready to practice nonviolence in speech as well as action? Are you ready to be arrested for nonviolent public witness, or are you worried about how that would affect your job or your reputation? Are you prepared to document events when you’re on the scene of a challenge to peaceful witness? Are you prepared to help protect vulnerable facilities whose workers and volunteers are providing life-affirming care? Are you prepared to organize carpools and vanpools and busloads of pro-life allies to public hearings? Are you prepared to “speak life” in season and out of season, in a manner worthy of the goal? Are you ready to financially and spiritually support allies whose nonviolent defense of life leads to job loss or worse?

These are personal decisions, but they’re best made with a supportive well-grounded group. I think churches are uniquely positioned to teach and support nonviolent public action. If they won’t do the job, let our secular pro-life neighbors lead.

A culture of death won’t be overturned by people being nice. It won’t even be overturned by a Court, although a Court can make helpful decisions. Only love can prevail – love that’s sometimes disruptive, always sacrificial to some degree, always risky, often shown in little day-to-day things, courageous even when my knees are shaking.

Nonviolence is the fruit of love like that. First things first.

I’m grateful for the Dobbs decision, even with its limitations. Now let’s get moving. See you at the State House.

Fetal Life Protection Act now has an exception

In the Governor’s Friday afternoon news dump just before Memorial Day weekend, we learned that he has quietly signed HB 1609, which adds an exception for “fetal anomalies incompatible with life” – i.e. a eugenic exception – to New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation, the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA).

The bill also includes clarification of FLPA’s ultrasound language. That particular provision was already passed via Governor Sununu’s recent signing of HB 1673, however, making that part of HB 1609 superfluous.

Take a moment to revisit this blog’s post “A door that shouldn’t be opened” in which I quoted the public policy director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester: “This would be the first time New Hampshire would designate a particular category of children to be liable for abortion, and that’s a door we don’t think the state should open.”

He was right, even if his words fell on deaf ears.

Sununu whacks buffer zone repeal with his veto stick

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed HB 1625, which would repeal the state’s unenforced buffer zone law. In doing so, he keeps his word from three weeks ago, and violates his word from 2016.

In his 2016 pitch to pro-life Republican voters on the eve of the gubernatorial election, he called buffer zone repeal a “common sense platform initiative” that he supported. In the same statement, he wrote “I know that my winning the race for Governor will be our best chance to get this important work done.”

Uh-huh.

His position hasn’t evolved. It has mutated. That doesn’t say much for the environment in which he chooses to immerse himself. Even the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who like Governor Sununu was “pro-choice,” recognized a violation of pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights when she saw one. Not so for Mr. Sununu.

Why were pro-life, pro-First-Amendment voters important enough to reach out to six years ago? Because then-Councilor Sununu had just survived a shockingly close GOP gubernatorial primary, and he wanted to mend every fence in sight.

Today, secure in his third term and aiming for a fourth, he can write off those pro-life, pro-First-Amendment voters. Maybe he thinks he has their votes locked up in any case, given the likely Democratic alternative in November. Maybe he thinks that by signing into law two of the five policies he backed in his 2016 statement – fetal homicide legislation and a late-term abortion ban – his work is done and his treasured “moderate” label is intact right alongside his “pro-choice” badge.

(I wonder if he’s gotten the memo about Planned Parenthood urging that the term “pro-choice” be abandoned in favor of “pro-abortion.”)

No need for nasty messages to the Governor. They’re rude, and in any case they’re counterproductive. But readers who treasure the First Amendment rights of peaceful prolife witnesses might want to keep this veto in mind.

The legislature will attempt to override the veto at a future date, but given the roll call numbers on HB 1625 so far, the necessary supermajority is lacking.

I’ll edit this post to include Governor Sununu’s formal veto statement when it becomes available.

A couple of earlier posts on HB 1625: Three reasons for Governor Sununu to sign buffer zone repeal; House to vote week of March 15