Mrs. McCullen and Justice Jackson

The U.S. Senate on a 53-47 vote has confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to a seat on the Supreme Court.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony on the nomination a couple of weeks ago, a familiar name turned up: Eleanor McCullen, sidewalk counselor and free speech advocate, victorious plaintiff in the McCullen v. Coakley case that overturned a Massachusetts buffer zone law. Her full statement to the Judiciary committee is now a matter of public record. Bottom line: any senator voting to confirm Jackson to the Court was voting to confirm someone known to be hostile to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Here’s an excerpt.

I was deeply saddened to find out that Judge Jackson, while working in private practice, advocated in favor of Massachusetts’ previous ‘buffer zone’ law in her amicus brief on behalf of abortion clinics and abortion advocacy groups including NARAL. In her amicus brief, she and her colleagues maligned pro-life sidewalk counselors, characterizing us in ugly and false ways.

Her misrepresentations certainly don’t describe me or any of the sidewalk counselors that I have worked with over the years who provide support, love, and options to women. Indeed, the entire reason I challenged the ‘buffer zone’ law was because I did not want to shout from a distance or come across as insensitive or compassionless to the women and families I served with love.

Thankfully, in 2014, after years of litigation, all nine Justices of the Supreme Court agreed that Massachusetts’s ‘buffer zone’ violated the First Amendment.

…I’m thankful the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in my case. When a woman is alone, sidewalk counselors walk with her in that moment. When a child is just minutes from losing his or her life, sidewalk counselors serve as their voice.

…I would ask Judge Jackson that if she is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States she will choose to uphold all Americans’ First Amendment freedoms.

In conclusion, you might wonder why I am so passionate about supporting mothers and free speech. Well, it’s called love. And love . . . you can’t argue with that.

Statement of Eleanor McCullen
Hearing on the Nomination of the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
March 24, 2022
Eleanor McCullen. Alliance Defending Freedom photo.

To no one’s surprise, New Hampshire’s Senators Shaheen and Hassan voted to confirm now-Justice Jackson.

Melissa Ohden: a voice for abortion survivors

Part of a series marking the tenth anniversary of the Leaven for the Loaf blog.

My first post about Melissa Ohden, back in 2016, included a video of her testimony to Congress about surviving the attempted abortion that was meant to kill her. After informing members of Congress about the number of documented abortions occurring annually, she went on to say “I was meant to be one of them. I should have been just another statistic.”

photo of Melissa Ohden seated
Melissa Ohden (photo from abortionsurvivors.org)

Melissa’s advocacy for abortion survivors had started years before. In 2012, she founded the Abortion Survivors Network. The Network is thriving, having brought together hundreds of people who have survived attempts to abort them. They are “more than a choice,” as ASN’s tagline proclaims.

“We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

Melissa Ohden, Abortion Survivors Network

Melissa was kind enough to reply recently when I asked her for an update on her work. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team at The Abortion Survivors Network, five of whom are also abortion survivors. We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

What’s ahead for ASN, and how you can help

What’s ahead for ASN? “We’re currently growing so rapidly that in the next five years, I foresee that we’ll be offering multiple retreats a year, including for families. We’re starting right now to research and implement the best practices of healing and community support for survivors who have also had abortions, themselves, and what care is most supportive to children and teenagers. Contributing what we learn to journals and the pro-life healing community is all part of what we’ll continue to do.”

In New Hampshire, efforts have thus far fallen short to pass “born-alive” legislation to protect children surviving attempted abortion. Other states have seen more success. What has worked, where born-alive laws are enacted? “We’ve continued to see that sharing the stories of survivors, coupled with data about the incidence of born alive survivors is impactful. Just because there are Abortion survivors doesn’t mean born alive legislation isn’t needed (policymakers and the abortion industry attempt to paint that picture).”

What can a person do to support ASN and the survivors it represents? “The average person can educate themselves about born alive survivors (our websites are great resources), learn our stories, and educate policymakers and people around them about this. Most people really have no idea this happens and the frequency to which it does.”

I can add one more thing: read and share Melissa’s book, You Carried Me: a Daughter’s Memoir (2018: Plough Publishing House). She tells her story with compassion and grace.

Post header image by truthseeker08/Pixabay.com

Crossover update: FLPA amendments pending; conscience bill and buffer zone repeal heading to Senate

Heading into April with the New Hampshire General Court, three bills are left that affect the Fetal Life Protection Act. Bills on buffer zone repeal and medical conscience rights are moving to the Senate as well.

March 31 marked “crossover,” when all New Hampshire House and Senate bills had to be dealt with in their originating chamber. Next step: hearings in the other chamber, with successful House bills heading to Senate committees and vice versa.

Fetal Life Protection Act

There’s been no more confusing bundle of bills than the multiple attempts to repeal or amend the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), New Hampshire’s new 24-week abortion limitation. Post-crossover, there are three bills addressing FLPA, and one of them is not like the others. Don’t blame me for complicating things; I give full credit for that to our honorable elected representatives in Concord.

  • HB 1609, amended to add a fetal-anomaly exception to the fetal life protection act: on its way to the Senate. HB 1609 started out as an attempt by a handful of Republicans to water down FLPA by adding exceptions and eliminating the ultrasound provision which would serve as a way to confirm gestational age. The full House in a close vote passed the bill, but then the bill went back for a second round of House action in the Finance Committee due to the bill’s fiscal note (the “FN” suffix you’ll find if you look for the bill on the General Court website). On March 31, the House adopted a Finance-proposed amendment to add an exception for “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life,” after hearing from a Brookline mother who is pregnant with twins and has been advised by her doctor that one of the twins “will not survive outside the womb and potentially threatens the life of the other [twin].” (See Union Leader, April 1/2, 2022, page 3.) The amendment also clarifies that ultrasound is only required when there’s reason to believe a fetus may be at 24 or more weeks’ gestation. According to the Union Leader coverage, the eugenic abortion exception elicited a positive response from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. The March 31 House vote to accept the committee amendment was overwhelming, 319-25, and it was a division vote so that voters can’t see who voted how. A Senate hearing on the bill has not yet been scheduled.
  • HB 1673 as amended in the House: reason to cheer. HB 1673 will have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 7 at 10:00 a.m. in room 100 of the State House. What you can do: sign in NOW with the Senate Judiciary Committee, before April 7, in support of HB 1673, which the committee will get in the House-amended version. How did HB 1673 get through the House? On a roller coaster. Originally introduced as a bill to repeal FLPA altogether, the full House instead amended the bill – basically re-writing it – to turn it into a clarification of FLPA’s ultrasound language, while leaving the rest of FLPA intact. This excellent move by the House was done on a voice vote, but just a few minutes earlier the House had cast a useful roll call vote when it rejected an attempted amendment offered by abortion advocates. That was a close one: 163-165. On that particular roll call, a Nay vote was a good one.
  • SB 399 as amended in the Senate: cheer again. SB 399 will get a House Judiciary hearing in Representatives Hall at 9:00 a.m. on April 13. What you can do: sign in NOW with the House Judiciary Committee, before April 13, in support of SB 399, which will come to the committee in the Senate-amended version. Unlike the Senate online sign-in form, the House form allows you to attach testimony. This bill mirrors HB 1673 in both its original and amended versions. It started out as an effort to repeal FLPA. It was amended to clarify the FLPA’s ultrasound language. The Senate vote was 14-10, straight party line: all Republicans supported keeping FLPA while clarifying the ultrasound language. No Democrat was willing to support that.

Buffer zone repeal and conscience protections: on to the Senate

HB 1080, protecting medical conscience rights, passed the House by a vote of 175-165. Now, the bill will go to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, date and time TBA.

Likewise, HB 1625, repeal of the buffer zone law, passed the House. I’m delighted that the outrageous committee report on the bill fell flat.The margin of victory was slim: 168-162. Not a single Democrat voted to repeal the unenforceable buffer zone law. Most Republicans did, with eight exceptions. I leave them to their constituents. Next stop for the bill: Senate Judiciary, date and time TBA.

Other bills tabled, unlikely to come back

CACR 18, which would have used the New Hampshire constitution to protect abortion, was tabled by the House on a 175-157 vote. Hooray for anything that derailed this constitutional amendment. It would take a two-thirds vote to take up the measure again (same for the other tabled bills mentioned below), and that’s extremely unlikely.

HB 1477, the heartbeat bill that would have barred abortions after detection of fetal heartbeat, was tabled in the House as well. Vote was 185-143.

Finally, HB 1674, relative to “reproductive rights,” was tabled by a 306-19 House vote – another division vote instead of a roll call, leaving voters at a loss to see who sent this bill to its well-deserved fate. Numbers like that mean that even abortion advocates decided to back away from this measure that could conceivably have allowed a “private right of action” in court against anyone accused of “restrict[ing] or interfer[ing]” with an abortion. Someone praying on a sidewalk, for example? Apparently, the House decided not to find out. Good decision.

More from House calendar, week of March 15

The New Hampshire House will meet on Tuesday, March 15, for what may turn into a three-day session given the number of bills on the calendar. I’ve written about some bills passing through the Judiciary Committee, as well as a conscience bill out of Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs. Those bill’s are on the week’s agenda.

Identify and contact your representatives

For any or all of these bills, you can contact your representatives before Tuesday’s session. Email is quick, but it’s also the most common. Most reps will get more than a thousand emails this week. Make your point in the subject line: identify yourself as a constituent when you write to your own reps, cite the bill number, and include “please vote [ITL for inexpedient to legislate or OTP for ought to pass].” As an example, in emailing my own reps about buffer zone repeal, I’d make the subject line “[name of town] resident, please vote OTP on HB 1625.” The legislators might not have time to read more than that. That’s what happens when several hundred bills come up in the same week.

Conscience protection for medical professionals, HB 1080

The recommendation from the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee is Ought to Pass (OTP) on HB 1080, protecting medical professionals who choose not to participate in abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception services. The vote was 11-10 along party lines with Republicans in the majority, so there will certainly be a debate on the House floor. Voting Ought to Pass on conscience protections ought to be easy, but this bill faces stiff opposition.

Putting abortion into the NH Constitution, CACR 18

CACR 18 is a proposed amendment to the New Hampshire constitution “providing that the state shall not infringe or unduly inconvenience the right of reproductive medical decisions.” “Inconvenience”??? Even the Judiciary Committee with its abortion-friendly majority was taken aback by this one. The committee recommendation is Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL). The House ought to agree. Because this is a proposed constitutional amendment, a two-thirds OTP vote by the full House will be necessary to advance it. A high bar, for sure, but take nothing for granted. Push for the ITL.

Heartbeat bill, HB 1477

HB 1477 would prohibit abortion in most cases after detection of a fetal heartbeat. Judiciary Committee recommendation: ITL on an 11-10 vote with one Republican joining Democrats to make the difference. In order to pass HB 1477, the House needs to overturn the committee recommendation and then vote OTP.

Buffer zone repeal, HB 1625

I’ve written at length about this bill and the deeply flawed report from the Judiciary Committee that recommended “inexpedient to legislate.” My own recommendation: overturn the committee report, and vote Ought to Pass on HB 1625, repealing New Hampshire’s unenforced buffer zone law that seeks to discourage peaceful prolife witness outside abortion facilities.

Gutting the Fetal Life Protection Act, HB 1673

This one is similar to HB 1609, which regrettably has already passed the House. New Hampshire’s Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), a 24-week abortion restriction, has been in effect only a short time. HB 1673 as passed by the Judiciary Committee would render it meaningless. The committee’s recommendation on an 11-10 vote is “ought to pass with amendment” (amendment #2022-0730h), a version that would weaken FLPA. The House ought to overturn that recommendation and instead vote for the committee minority’s recommendation to pass the bill with another amendment (#2022-0688h) that simply clarifies FLPA’s ultrasound provision. In brief: support the minority report on HB 1673.

The sponsors of HB 1673 revealed their intentions in the original version of the bill, calling it a repeal of FLPA. Now, the chief sponsor has put her name on the majority’s amendment. It would apparently serve her purpose. ‘Nuff said.

“Relative to reproductive rights,” HB 1674

Judiciary has recommended ITL on an 11-8 vote. The committee got this one right. HB 1674 would establish that NH “shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy” except as already provided in law. This is meant to prevent New Hampshire from enacting new abortion regulations even if the Supreme Court kicks Roe to the curb. This one definitely deserves an ITL.

Postscript: fathers’ role in abortions, HB 1181

HB 1181, which would have given biological fathers a right to seek a court injunction to prevent the abortion of their children, was sent to Interim Study by the House earlier this month. This effectively kills the bill. It is not one of the bills on the House calendar for the coming week.

Buffer zone repeal, 2022: House to vote week of March 15

Amidst an extremely long agenda on the New Hampshire House calendar for next week, buffer zone repeal – HB 1625 – awaits action. The Judiciary Committee on a 12-9 vote is recommending “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL). The full House in its multi-day session will vote on the bill sometime between Tuesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 17.

Identify your representatives by checking the House roster by town. Click on each name to find contact information. As them to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s ITL recommendation on HB 1625, and instead support a motion of “ought to pass” (OTP). You may find that you belong to two districts, and if that’s the case, contact all the representatives listed. If you send email, be sure your subject line is clear, since that may be the only thing a rep has time to read: “From a constituent: please vote OTP on HB 1625.”

Why HB 1625 deserves special attention

There will be other life-issue bills on the House calendar, and I will address those in a separate post. Why single out buffer zone repeal for special attention? Certainly the First Amendment implications are important, but there’s another reason. The committee’s majority report recommending ITL contains two falsehoods. Any representative supporting the ITL recommendation will be embracing them.

I cast no aspersions on Rep. Mark Paige (D-Exeter), who wrote the majority report. He may have depended on unreliable sources. All the more reason to clear up the false information.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law threatens the right of peaceful pro-life witnesses to be present on public property outside abortion facilities. The law has never been enforced since its 2014 passage. Nevertheless, it remains a stain on our statutes.

No, the buffer zone law was NOT drafted to follow Supreme Court guidelines

From the Judiciary Committee’s minority report, which is printed in the House calendar and may be the only thing most reps read about HB 1625: “…the drafters of our current buffer law carefully crafted it after the [U.S. Supreme] Court decided McCullen, thus with particular knowledge of the constitutional limits of buffer zone laws.”

That is four-alarm nonsense.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law on which New Hampshire’s law was based, was handed down on June 26, 2014. (You can read the case itself and my commentary written at the time the case was decided.)

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was introduced on December 17, 2013, passed by the House in February 2014, passed by the Senate in May 2014, and signed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan on June 10, 2014. That’s 16 days before the Supreme Court handed down McCullen.

The governor and every legislator knew perfectly well that the McCullen case was pending in the Court. They enabled the New Hampshire buffer zone law anyway.

So much for being “carefully crafted” after McCullen.

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