Post-veto, a clarifying moment on Twitter

Yes, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the odious abortion insurance mandate. I’ve thanked him. I hope readers will do likewise.

Nothing in the veto changes his attitude toward abortion. The veto indicated respect for those who disagree with him, just as it indicated concern that the mandate would have cost the state money. That’s as far as it goes.

Three people came together in a Twitter exchange a few hours after the veto to clear this up for pro-life voters.

First, this from Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord, @DanFeltesNH), who hopes to get the Democratic nomination for Governor this fall. He pitched his customary reproductive-rights spiel. “Despite claiming to be pro-choice, @GovChrisSununu has repeatedly turned his back on reproductive health care access. Today, Sununu sided with insurance companies and the far-right over Granite State women and denied them affordable access to safe, legal abortion. #nhpolitics”

Mere minutes later came this reply from a gentleman working for the Governor’s re-election (@brvihsta), formerly on the Governor’s staff. He helpfully pointed out that Planned Parenthood has not suffered under the Governor’s leadership, despite the fact that he has disappointed them twice in five years (more about that here, under “an interesting anniversary”). “He is pro-choice. The vast majority of insurance plans already cover these services, & all this bill would have done is jeopardized federal funding during a pandemic. @ChrisSununu has brought forward state contracts for Planned Parenthood *every year* as Governor. #nhpolitics”

A state representative (@prudhommeobrien) summed it up well in her reply to Mr. Vihstadt. She does not trash the Governor, nor has she ever done so in my hearing. She is a thoughtful individual. But she does have a habit of calling things as she sees ’em. “I see. So even when he throws pro-lifers a bone, he tries to hit them in the face with it.”

Ouch. But yes.

Gratitude for the veto is a good thing. It’s downright essential, in my book. Acknowledgment of the conscience rights of Granite Staters is always refreshing to see.

Maybe that’ll extend to keeping tax dollars away from abortion providers someday.

Perhaps that’s a conversation to be had on the campaign trail.

Veto! Sununu says no to abortion insurance mandate

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a measure to create an abortion-insurance mandate for certain health insurance policies. In his veto message on HB 685, he cited conscience concerns and a potential loss of federal funds if the bill were to become law.

“This bill would risk the States federal healthcare funding in the middle of a pandemic, take away the freedom of choice for those employees and employers who object to being forced to partake in or provide abortion services, and expose the State to expensive litigation. Therefore, the costs and risks of this bill far outweigh its benefits.” (Full statement at this link.)

HB 685’s advocates, citing “parity,” treat abortion as health care. To them, conscience protections are “discriminatory attacks.” They seek to remove abortion-free options for anyone who chooses not to help provide abortions, including insurance providers, business owners who offer health insurance as a benefit to employees, and individuals paying insurance premiums.

HB 685 got to the Governor’s desk after a tortuous legislative process that included stripping an unrelated bill of its language in order to replace it with the abortion insurance mandate. The bill was passed in spite of a House rule barring nongermane amendments. There was no House public hearing on the bill in its amended form.

Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in House and Senate. The House Clerk has announced that the House will have its “Veto Day” on September 16 at UNH’s Whittemore Center in Durham.

Earlier coverage of HB 685: Mandate bill created in rushed process, Clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

To thank the Governor: (603) 271-2121 or governorsununu@nh.gov

Edited to correct date for House Veto Day.

After one-month delay, clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

The abortion insurance mandate bill crafted by pro-abortion New Hampshire legislators is finally on Governor Sununu’s desk. HB 685 was passed and entered the enrollment process on June 30. Not until August 5 did the Senate finally sign off on the bill. Governor Sununu now has five business days to act on it.

The Governor’s office phone number is (603) 271-2121. Email is governorsununu@nh.gov. He could act on the bill as early as today.

Five-day countdown after one-month delay

HB 685 entered the enrollment process on June 30 after a rule-bending journey through House and Senate. Enrollment is normally an administrative procedure lasting a few days, involving getting signatures from House and Senate leaders. By delaying sign-off, those leaders can affect the timing of when a bill gets to the Governor.

In the case of HB 685, the Senate was the chokepoint. Senate President Donna Soucy finally did her job and sent the bill to the Governor on August 5. From there, Governor Chris Sununu has five business days to sign or veto the bill, or let it become law without his signature.

The last option – letting it become law without his signature – is no different from signing it outright.

The big lie: “reproductive health parity”

Abortion advocates have titled the mandate a “reproductive health parity” bill. That’s a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that even among abortion-friendly legislators, the word “abortion” is radioactive.

Don’t be fooled. HB 685 is an abortion bill. It is founded on the false notion that abortion is health care, together with the false notion that “access” means forcing the community as a whole to help procure abortions.

In a press release tweeted out by Senate Democrats, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) said that HB 685 is essential to “guaranteeing full reproductive health care and reducing barriers for women when making their constitutionally protected decisions.”

No word on whether Senator Rosenwald is interested in repealing the buffer zone law, which was passed in the thus-far-vain hope it would be a barrier for women making constitutionally protected decisions to demonstrate publicly and peacefully outside abortion facilities.

An interesting anniversary

Whether the Senate Democrats intended so or not, their statement on HB 685 comes on the fifth anniversary of then-Executive Councilor Sununu’s surprising vote to deny a state contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. In a joyous borderline-intemperate Facebook post that day, I wrote “Can I get a Hell Yeah for Chris Sununu? He courageously voted no on PP contracts, citing need for alternatives for women in his district.”

Why so shocking? Because he had voted to grant earlier PP contracts, and only a few months later, he reverted to supporting PP contracts again.

Coverage in this blog noted more about Sununu’s vote on August 5, 2015.

In the discussion preceding the vote, Sununu said “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” He unsuccessfully urged Hassan and his fellow Councilors to “take a step back” and support a study of health care options in Sununu’s southeastern New Hampshire district. He said he got calls from constituents who wanted family planning services but not at Planned Parenthood. He also expressed concern about activities at other Planned Parenthood affiliates documented in the [Center for Medical Progress] videos [documenting PP commerce in fetal body parts], which were dismissed by Hassan, Van Ostern and Pappas (in identical language) as “heavily edited.” “I’ve watched that video cover to cover with no edits,” said Sununu. “I’m pro-choice, but that’s not the issue here.”

reported in Leaven for the Loaf, 8/5/15

Perhaps the better angels of his nature will prevail again in 2020.

Budget compromise on abortion funding: no direct, plenty of indirect

Edited 9/28/19: Governor’s signing is still pending, awaiting the bill’s enrollment process.

As of September 25, New Hampshire has a new budget for the coming biennium. In a compromise overwhelmingly approved by legislators and soon to be signed by Governor Sununu, the budget includes language preventing the direct funding of abortion using state dollars.

Or rather, more-or-less preventing. More on that below. But for now, my hat’s off to the House and Senate minority leadership teams (GOP) who refused to cave in to the majority’s desire to open the door to direct funding.

Direct abortion funding: not this time

No direct funding: that’s a depressingly low bar to clear. I work and pray for the day when there’s no need to jump for joy over something that ought to be fundamental policy. I likewise work and pray for the day when no party thinks direct funding is a good idea.

In the no-direct-funding provision, budget negotiators added a sneaky little clause that bears watching (emphasis added):  “Unless specifically appropriated in the biennial budget, no state funds awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility, as defined in RSA 132:37, I, shall be used to provide abortion services.”

There should be no “unless.”

In any case, the no-direct-funding provision was welcomed by Governor Sununu, who continues to draw a line between funding abortion and funding abortion providers.

indirect abortion funding: more than ever

The political trade-off for getting the no-direct-funding language was to hand additional funds to the state’s largest abortion provider. You can see why I haven’t used the word “victory” to describe the budget compromise.

Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider, even for non-abortion work, helps keep the abortion side of the business going.

In an earlier post, I outlined the situation with Title X federal family planning funds in the state budget. Several New Hampshire family planning contractors are also abortion providers, principally Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. When the federal government recently enacted the Protect Life Rule barring abortion providers from receiving Title X funds, PPNNE announced that it would leave the federal Title X program rather than give up doing abortions.

In the state budget compromise, there’s a huge increase in the family planning appropriation from the state general fund, compared to last biennium’s budget. That increase exists to offset PPNNE’s “loss” of federal funds under the Protect Life Rule. PPNNE and a few smaller contractors voluntarily surrendered those federal dollars in order to keep their abortion businesses going.

In other words, abortion providers will now get more state dollars precisely because they’re abortion providers. The dollars are appropriated for “family planning,” but the increase over the previous biennium isn’t going to the Title X contractors who are abortion-free. The increase is going to the abortion providers.

And that’s what political compromise looks like this week. “It’s the best we’re going to get,” I was told by a source close to the negotiations. That’s true, for now.

More on State Budget and Abortion Funding: Keep Those Messages Going

The New Hampshire House will meet later this week, September 18 and 19, with the Senate meeting on the 19th. On the agenda: votes to sustain or override each of the Governor’s 50+ vetoes. At stake is the use of state general funds, i.e. taxpayer dollars, for direct and indirect funding of abortion.

Set out below are the reasons why it’s important to contact state representatives, state senators, and Governor Sununu with the clear unambiguous message: no public funding, direct or indirect, for abortion. That means sustaining the Governor’s veto of the state budget, and fighting to keep abortion out of any subsequent negotiated budget.

Governor Sununu has said reassuring things about direct funding of abortion. That is not the case about indirect funding, in which public dollars go to abortion providers purportedly for non-abortion work. Perhaps you have heard similar messages and non-messages from your own representatives.

At the heart of the matter: the state budget

The abortion funding question arises from Governor Sununu’s veto of the proposed state budget (see this blog’s earlier report). Enough concerned citizens have reached out to the Governor over the summer about this that his office has produced a form letter about it.

Thank you for contacting my office regarding abortion in New Hampshire. As Governor it has always been incredibly important to me to hear directly from Granite Staters on matters of great importance to them.

It is important for you to know that I have always opposed taxpayer funding of abortion, and have supported common-sense measures such as parental notification and the late-term abortion ban. In the past, I also supported legislative actions such as the Fetal Homicide Bill, Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act.

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas on this important issue as we move forward, and please do not hesitate to contact my office should you have concerns in the future.

Sincerely,

Christopher T. Sununu, Governor

(The only bill the Governor mentions that he actually signed is fetal homicide. Parental notification was already in place when he was elected, and bills regarding the other policies he mentioned have not made it out of the legislature.)

I’ll send a thank-you to the Governor for his letter. I’ll mention that I expect an equally forthright answer on giving money to abortion providers.

Indirect funding: reinforcing an abortion-first business model

The state budget Governor Sununu vetoed included a dramatic increase in funding for family planning. Has there been some kind of spike in the rate of unexpected pregnancy in New Hampshire? Nope. The increase is about abortion.

The proposed increase is to compensate family planning providers who are also abortion providers and who are losing federal funds by refusing to stop doing abortion work.

Title X (Ten) is a federal family planning program that grants money to states for family planning work, allowing the states to choose the contractors to actually carry out the family planning programs. Title X funds have never been allowed for direct abortion. Beginning last month, under a new federal provision called the Protect Life Rule, no Title X funds may go to abortion providers. The total amount of Title X money is not reduced by the Protect Life Rule. That money is available to contractors who don’t do abortions.

As explained by Cornerstone Action (a nonprofit for which I’m communications consultant), “This recognizes the fact that there is no practical difference between funding abortion and funding abortion providers. Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider for non-abortion work helps to subsidize the abortion side of the business, by means of overhead such as facilities, equipment, utilities, and staffing.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England announced that it would drop out of New Hampshire’s Title X program rather than stop doing abortions. The other two freestanding abortion facilities followed suit, and even a few public health agencies that do not provide abortions joined in, out of a misplaced solidarity with abortion providers.

So much for patients relying on Title X programs. They are elbowed aside as their providers carry abortion work to the head of the priority list.

Cornerstone’s explanation of the Protect Life Rule bears reading in full. Here’s another excerpt:

The Protect Life Rule does not reduce the amount of family planning money coming from the federal government. At the same time, it respects the conscience rights of everyone who recognizes that abortion is not health care and that each abortion ends a human life. 

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have had it both ways in the past, providing abortion and federally-subsidized family planning under the same roof. They oppose the Protect Life Rule. Their message to you is, “Shut up and pay. We’ve got a business to run.”

…PPNNE calls the Protect Life Rule a “gag rule,” saying it inhibits communication between patients and providers. In fact, all the new rule inhibits is the ability of abortion providers to use public money, including indirectly, to perform, refer or promote abortion. 

Messages now

I’m going to email the Governor, thank him for his stand on direct funding, and urge him to be just as firm on indirect funding.

I’m going to email or call my senator and representatives, asking them to uphold the Governor’s veto of the state budget. I’ll ask them to oppose any direct or indirect funding of abortion.

Some of them might come back at me and tell me this is about health care. No, it isn’t. It’s about abortion, and abortion is not health care. Any provider who says it can’t provide family planning services because of a loss of Title X funds needs to be reminded that it lost those funds because it put abortion first in its business model.