Attempt to override buffer zone veto coming on September 15

Don’t let this get lost in the pile of messages you’re receiving about the primary election: The New Hampshire House will meet on September 15 for “Veto Day,” taking up the eight bills vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu this year. Among them is HB 1625, repeal of the unenforced “buffer zone” law designed to restrict the First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities.

A two-thirds majority is required to overturn a veto. If the House overturns the veto, the Senate will then attempt an override. Both chambers are meeting at 1 p.m. on September 15.

Note that Veto Day comes two days after the state’s primary election. If your representative happens to be defeated that day, he or she will still be in office until next December and will therefore be able to vote on Veto Day.

Look up your representatives’ names and contact information: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/

When you send your message to OVERTURN the veto of HB 1625, remember that your reps will be hearing from many people. Keep it short and to the point. If you email your rep, make sure your subject line has the relevant information, since that might be all that gets read. For example: “From a constituent: overturn HB 1625 veto.”

HB 1625 passed the House narrowly last March, 168-162, with every Democrat present voting against the bill and all but ten Republicans voting for it.

Governor Sununu in his veto message said, “In the eight years since this law was originally enacted, we know of no instance where an individual or group has been harmed by it. As a result, I am not looking to make any changes at
this time.” He has no problem with keeping on the books a law that’s based on one overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Update: The House sustained the Governor’s veto. The vote to override the veto failed, 145-175. The 152 Democrats who cast a vote all voted to sustain the veto; they were joined by 23 Republicans.

An earlier post about HB 1625: Three reasons for Governor Sununu to sign buffer zone repeal (still relevant as reasons to override his veto). I had a few things to say after the veto, too.

An abortion agenda for NH

The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation counts “abortion rights” among its interests. One of the Foundation’s recent publications lists “Post-Roe policy priorities in New Hampshire,” with footnoted credit to the New Hampshire Abortion Access Coalition.

I take no credit for being psychic, but I called a few of these the day the Dobbs decision came down. You probably did, too. Remember, Dobbs did not recognize a right to life.

The following list of “post-Roe policy priorities” should inspire an interesting Q&A session with your local candidates for state rep and state senator. Any candidate not committed to resisting these “priorities” will be a candidate who advances them.

  • “Pass proactive legislation to enshrine the right to access abortion in New Hampshire.” Translation: codify unlimited abortion via statute.
  • “Amend New Hampshire’s Constitution to enshrine the right to access abortion in New Hampshire.” Codify unlimited abortion via constitution – and possibly by misuse of our constitution’s privacy amendment.
  • “Repeal current abortion restrictions.” New Hampshire has exactly three statutory regulations on abortion: parental notification, a ban on partial-birth abortion (i.e. killing a child after the child is partially delivered from the mother’s body), and a 24-week limit with a eugenic-abortion exception. Goodbye to all that, if the Foundation has its way.
  • “Address disparities in abortion care based on geographic location, including for abortion later in pregnancy.” Watch out for regulatory (executive, administrative) action on this in addition to statutory action. Open more abortion facilities? Force hospitals to provide the direct intentional termination of human life late in pregnancy? Whatever it takes, I suppose.
  • “Support policies to ensure abortion and abortion-related care is covered for all patients, regardless of insurance.” Translation: force taxpayers to subsidize abortion via Medicaid. Again, watch for regulations that do what statutes can’t.
  • “Increase the number of providers who offer abortion care.” Here’s one way: make health care providers see the intentional termination of human life as a normal medical procedure, and then stigmatize and sanction providers who push back.
  • “Defeat anti-abortion legislation in the State House.” Translation: keep doing everything the abortion advocacy movement has been doing in New Hampshire since 1997. A sampler: oppose conscience protections for health care providers; challenge the First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses; fight informed consent and statistics-reporting requirements for abortion; promote discrimination against people with disabilities by promoting eugenic abortion; make sure that infants who survive attempted abortion are not protected under law.

The state primary election this year is September 13. The time to find out where your local candidates stand is now. And an “R” next to your candidate’s name is not an answer.

Author of Lamy decision has died; called for fetal homicide legislation

Former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice James Duggan has died, and may he rest in peace.

According to a New Hampshire Sunday News report, Duggan was famed as a public defender before being named to the Court by then-Governor Shaheen. For me, his reputation rests on something else: his authorship of the State v. Lamy decision in 2009. Without that case, we might still be fighting for a fetal homicide law in New Hampshire.

The 4-0 decision overturned the manslaughter conviction of an impaired driver whose speeding vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman. That victim’s baby was subsequently delivered by cesarean, but died a few days later of injuries sustained in utero caused by the impact of the collision.

Later convicted of multiple charges, the speeding driver appealed. While most of the convictions were upheld, the Court overturned the manslaughter conviction for the death of the baby. The Court ruled that existing New Hampshire law simply did not address the circumstances of the case. The baby had’t been “alive” for legal purposes when he sustained the injury.

And then Duggan added a compelling call to action: “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

Getting there took eight years, two particularly brave and persistent families, and some heartbreaking setbacks. The inexplicable and outrageous resistance of abortion advocates to fetal homicide legislation carried too much weight for too long. Finally in 2017 New Hampshire’s legislators and governor followed the Court’s advice.

I think that the families who came forward again and again to testify about their lost children made the difference. The Lamy decision gave their testimony indispensable support.

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.