No to jailing the moms

I’ll oppose prosecution of a woman for having an abortion. I’ll work to prevent the election of policymakers who think such prosecutions are a good idea. And I can’t believe the topic has even come up. Thanks to Abby Johnson, it has.

In a series of posts a few years back, I cited Abby as one of several “voices to trust” – “women who came through a variety of experiences to find themselves – sometimes to their own astonishment – opposing abortion and Roe v. Wade.” Abby’s personal journey took her from being a Planned Parenthood manager to being a pro-life leader and founder of a nonprofit organization that has assisted hundreds of former abortion workers seeking to leave the abortion industry. Amazing conversion, powerful ministry. That much hasn’t changed.

Then a few days ago, on May 7, she used a long Facebook post to advocate the criminal prosecution of women who have had abortions. The key lines: “Are preborn human beings full of infinite dignity and worth or are they not? Do we believe abortion is murder or is it not. Is the preborn child worth the same protection as my 2 year old or are the preborn somehow less valuable? If we do not have the same due process in the law for those who pay to take the life of their children, then we as a movement are liars. We are saying that those in the womb do NOT have the same value as those outside of the womb.”

No. Just no. And no again. Recognizing the dignity and humanity of pregnant woman and preborn child is one thing. Pitting pregnant women against their preborn children is something else, and the abortion industry relies on maintaining that adversarial position. It’s inhumane. I refuse to buy into it. And that’s without even addressing the position’s base political stupidity.

I wonder how Abby’s position will strike the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility for months, slowly building a relationship of trust with her and then welcoming her when she walked away from PP.

I wonder how a prosecute-the-mom policy sounds to someone involved in Rachel’s Vineyard or another post-abortion healing ministry.

Fortunately, people with more fame and clout than I are speaking up. Five days after Abby’s post, numerous groups and individuals released “An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations.” Here’s their conclusion:

Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.

As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.

…We call upon all pro-life legislators to stand with us. We ask you to continue to act with love and compassion toward abortion-vulnerable women. We urge you to reject any measure that seeks to criminalize women who have abortions.

An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations, released 5/12/22

Among the signatories are representatives of Americans United for Life, March for Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secular Pro-Life, New Wave Feminists, and the National Right to Life Committee. There are many more, but that short list gives you an idea of the breadth of support for the letter.

Pro-life writer and podcaster Gloria Purvis put it pithily on her Twitter feed: an abortion-minded woman “needs help, not handcuffs.”

I agree.

Ironically, it’s through the Pro-Life Women’s Conference – founded by Abby Johnson – that I’ve met people from Secular Pro-Life and New Wave Feminists, pro-lifers whose experiences and backgrounds are very different from my own. I’ve learned from them. I wasn’t at all surprised to see some of their names on the letter pushing back on the jail-the-moms idea.

Abby Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood was astounding, and her willingness to support former abortion workers has been inspirational. She played a huge role in promoting 40 Days for Life in its early years. She established an annual conference that in past years has brought together widely (and wildly) differing parts of the pro-life movement.

She got those things right. With her Facebook post this week, I fear she’s undermined all of them.

I won’t look an abortion-minded woman in the eye and assure her that I’ll have her jailed if she doesn’t listen to me. If that makes me one of the “liars” of the pro-life movement, to use Abby’s word, all I can say is that I’ve been called worse.

I wrote eight years ago about Abby’s visit to Dartmouth College. I quoted what she said then about how her heart was gradually softened by the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility: “She says the pro-life witnesses outside her clinic never called her names, but worked on forming a ‘genuine relationship’ with her, ‘without persecution and without condemnation. That’s what heals hearts.'”

Indeed.


Images above: screenshots of Abby Johnson’s 5/7/22 Facebook post, captured by Ellen Kolb

Post header stock photo: Pixels.com

Three reasons for Governor Sununu to sign buffer zone repeal

After protracted debate, including attempts to attach two non-germane amendments, the New Hampshire Senate has passed the buffer zone repeal bill, HB 1625. The vote was 12-11, in spite of Governor Chris Sununu’s veto threat. Twelve of 14 Republicans voted to pass the bill. While the bill’s docket hasn’t yet been updated with the official roll call, news reports indicate that Sen. Hennessey (R-Littleton) voted with the chamber’s ten Democrats, and Sen. Reagan (R-Deerfield) was absent.

The Governor has not detailed his reasons for opposing buffer zone repeal. Perhaps it’s tied up with a wish to look more “pro-choice,” a label he wears with pride. In any case, his determination to veto the bill flies in the face of a written commitment he made in 2016. (More about that later.)

He can still do the right thing and sign HB 1625. He has good reasons to do so. You can call his office at (603) 271-2121 with a quick message, or email him with longer comments.

The Supreme Court’s McCullen decision

One would think that the Governor’s legal team might have read McCullen v. Coakley, but I am beginning to have my doubts.

There is such a thing as a “constitutional” buffer zone law, in the eyes of U.S. Courts. New Hampshire’s law isn’t one of them. It is modeled on the Massachusetts buffer zone law that was thrown out by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court – yes, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – back in 2014’s McCullen case, days after the New Hampshire law was signed by then-Governor Hassan.

The Massachusetts law was thrown out on narrow grounds, which happen to apply to our situation in New Hampshire. In an effort to accommodate abortion providers who didn’t want pro-life witnesses outside their facilities, Massachusetts had failed to enforce more targeted and less restrictive laws before going after the pro-lifers’ First Amendment free-speech rights. Here’s Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court: “Respondents assert undeniably significant interests in maintaining public safety on those same streets and sidewalks, as well as in preserving access to adjacent healthcare facilities. But here the Commonwealth has pursued those interests by the extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a tradi­tional public forum to all speakers. It has done so without seriously addressing the problem through alternatives that leave the forum open for its time-honored purposes. The Commonwealth may not do that consistent with the First Amendment.

“Without seriously addressing the problem through alternatives” is exactly where New Hampshire stands. It’s exactly why New Hampshire abortion providers have never yet posted a buffer zone. There is no record with any law enforcement agency of repeated arrests, never mind convictions, of peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. It would require such a record to justify infringement of First Amendment rights.

Again, Chief Justice Roberts: “To meet the requirement of narrow tailoring, the government must demonstrate that alterna­tive measures that burden substantially less speech would fail to achieve the government’s interests, not simply that the chosen route is easier. A painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce, but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency.”

Whether using a painted line as in Massachusetts or a printed sign as prescribed in New Hampshire’s law, McCullen applies.

The cost of litigation

After Massachusetts lost the McCullen case, the pro-life plaintiffs quite reasonably sought to recover their legal fees. A settlement agreement reached six months after the Supreme Court decision resulted in Massachusetts having to pay up, to the tune of $1.24 million. That’s on top of whatever the Commonwealth spent in the years-long effort to win its case.

Governor Sununu is steward of the New Hampshire treasury. I doubt defending a McCullen-style law is what he means to do with your tax dollars. It would be much wiser to get the McCullen-style law out of New Hampshire statutes.

Sununu’s 2016 commitment to support buffer zone repeal

Perhaps even more persuasive than the preceding two reasons is the third one, which speaks to the Governor’s character.

When Chris Sununu first ran for governor in 2016, pro-life voters were concerned. Like the Democrat on the ballot, he called himself “pro-choice.” After hearing from concerned Republicans, the message went out a few days before the November election that there were a few policies he could support. One of them was repeal of the buffer zone law. He put that in writing.

I provided his statement in a post in November 2016: A concerned Republican and Sununu’s reply

In the same message, he said he could support a late-term abortion ban. He did so when he signed last year’s budget, which contained the Fetal Life Protection Act – and now he intends to walk that back, by announcing his intention to sign HB 1609 adding a post-24-week eugenic exception to FLPA.

It’s possible that as a popular governor with a lot of political capital to spend, he has decided to repudiate his 2016 statement. Maybe his political calculus does not take pro-lifers into account. Maybe he thinks we’re politically negligible.

Are you willing to prove him wrong?

Remember: (603) 271-2121. Second floor of the State House, if you want to deliver a written message to the reception staff. Use that “share your opinion” page on his website. Get some friends together and write postcards, addressed to the Governor at 107 North State Street, Concord NH, 03301. Cite one reason for him to sign HB 1625, or cite all three, or simply say “please sign buffer zone repeal.”

Governor Sununu is listening to abortion advocates. He needs to be listening to his own better nature – the one he gave us a glimpse of in 2016.

post header photo: Scott Graham/Unsplash

Anticipating Senate vote, Sununu says he’d veto buffer zone repeal

According to Union Leader State House reporter Kevin Landrigan, Governor Chris Sununu has said he would veto the buffer-zone repeal bill if it reaches his desk. That bill, HB 1625, is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday, May 5. I’ll be watching to see if normally pro-life and pro-First-Amendment senators vote against the bill after they’ve heard the veto threat.

The report follows Sununu’s remarks earlier this week in the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion in the Dobbs case that he remains “pro-choice.” On his official website, he has posted the following statement: “As a pro-choice governor, I am committed to upholding Roe v. Wade, which is why I am proud of the bipartisan bill headed to my desk this year that expands access. So long as I am governor, these health care services for women will remain safe and legal.”

The “bipartisan” bill to which Sununu was referring is HB 1609, which adds a eugenics exception to the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), New Hampshire’s recently-enacted 24-week abortion limitation.

SCOTUS and the leaked draft: a 28-3 moment for the pro-life movement

Someone associated with the Supreme Court of the United States – a clerk, I’d wager – has slipped a reporter a copy of a draft opinion by Justice Alito in the Dobbs case, in which Alito bids Roe v. Wade goodbye. Activists who should know better are jumping for virtual joy.

Let’s get a grip. The draft is just that: a draft, not a final opinion. Nothing has been overturned.

Why leak the draft? Because for anyone who supports Roe v. Wade, this might seem like a time for desperate measures. Leaking the draft will put enormous pressure on the Justices who have reportedly indicated support for the draft. There is still time to flip a vote or two.

Why do I call this a 28-3 moment? A few years back, the score in the third quarter of the Super Bowl was 28-3. The Falcons were spanking the Patriots. The fourth quarter was going to be a mere formality. Except…the Pats clawed back, and won the game 34-28. (My husband gets the credit for reminding me of this.)

With the release of the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion, the pro-life movement looks like that team with the 25-point lead. Premature celebration is not a good idea.

Until at least five Justices formally sign on to something together, Dobbs is up in the air. The Court could go either way, meaning it might or might not overturn Roe. I suspect the three Justices who will feel the most heat are Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. The public uproar over the leaked draft hints at the private pressures they must be feeling today.

And if somehow Dobbs overturns Roe, the figurative 25-point lead could be temporary.

Even if it does overturn Roe by returning abortion policy to state legislatures, there is no sign that the Court will use the Dobbs case to assert and defend the fundamental right to life of each human being. Instead, at best, the Court seems poised to tell us that we are free to argue for that right one state at a time.

That’s a far cry from the truth once held to be self-evident. Created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…among these are life….

If you think the battles in Concord over life-issue legislation will come to an end post-Dobbs, think again. The state constitution will be up for grabs.

The medical professionals involved in abortion will work harder than ever to persuade women and policymakers that they, the abortion providers, are the compassionate ones.

The political battles, grim as they’ll continue to be, will be child’s play compared to the overwhelming need to expand the network of personal and social supports that a woman or girl needs when her pregnancy is a challenge.

This is a moment for rededication to relentless, peaceful action in defense of life. Our service to each other, in words and actions and prayers, public and private, must lead us where the Court still seems unwilling to go.

If Justice Alito’s draft eventually becomes the Court’s decision, I’ll take time to cheer. Then I’ll get back to work alongside people with hearts wiser and more courageous than mine, knowing that the Court has left us with a lot of brokenness to mend.

Post header photo by Ellen Kolb.

Buffer zone, conscience bills will get Senate votes May 5

The New Hampshire Senate at its May 5 session is scheduled to act on committee reports recommending passage for buffer zone repeal (HB 1625) and interim study of medical conscience protection (HB 1080).

Find your senator’s contact information at http://gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/members/wml.aspx

Buffer zone repeal got an “Ought to Pass” (OTP) recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote. The House has already passed HB 1625, so if the Senate votes OTP, the next destination for the bill would be Governor Sununu’s desk.

Medical conscience – including the right not to suffer adverse professional consequences for refusing to participate in abortions – got an unfortunate “Interim Study” recommendation on a 4-1 vote from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. An interim study vote by the Senate would kill HB 1080 for this session. Ideally, senators will overturn the Interim Study recommendation and instead adopt an OTP motion.

The Senate session will be live-streamed on YouTube Thursday, May 5 at 10 a.m.

House session May 4-5

The House will have a two-day session next week. Among the bills on the calendar is SB 399, clarifying the ultrasound provision of the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA). It matches HB 1673, which has already passed. SB 399 is on the consent calendar after getting a unanimous 21-0 OTP vote from the House Judiciary Committee.

While this looks like good news, bear in mind that Governor Sununu has indicated his preference for HB 1609, which has already passed House and Senate. HB 1609 clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound provision, but also adds a eugenics exception (for “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life”) to FLPA’s 24-week abortion limitation.

Post header photo of NH Senate chamber: Marc Nozell, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons