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.

House votes to gut Fetal Life Protection Act

Edited/updated to include information on all relevant procedural votes preceding the final House vote.

Overturning a committee recommendation, The New Hampshire House has voted to pass the original version of HB 1609, which would effectively undermine the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA). After rejecting (without a roll call) the amendment proposed by the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs committee (HHS), the House voted 179-174 to pass the bill with its original language.

According to on-the-scene tweets and subsequent reports from the Union Leader (@KLandriganUL) and WMUR (@AdamSextonWMUR), the failure of the committee amendment was followed by a vote to table (177-176, with GOP Speaker Packard breaking a tie), then a vote to remove from the table (178-175), and finally a vote to pass the bill as introduced (179-174).

House docket (status report) on HB 1609 after House action. See notes for February 17: amendment failed (AF) on a division vote (DV, no roll call), followed by motions to table and then remove from table (MA = motion adopted), finally Ought to Pass motion adopted on a roll call vote.

So what will the bill do?

HB 1609, backed by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, is intended to weaken the Fetal Life Protection Act, a 24-week abortion limit that went into effect earlier this year. (see HB 2 from 2021, at page 14.)

As described by Cornerstone Action, HB 1609 “…leaves a shell of the law [FLPA] while stripping out the ultrasound requirement, the only objective measure of gestational age. The resulting unenforceable law would be worse than nothing. HB 1609 also inserts additional exceptions, but these are little more than a distraction when compared with the devastating removal of the ultrasound provision.”

HB 1609 as passed by the House therefore shreds the Fetal Life Protection Act.

HB 1609, since it has a fiscal note attached, is supposed to go to the House Finance Committee before heading to the Senate. That Finance hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Governor pleased with outcome

HB 1609 – introduced by a handful of Republicans – is something Governor Chris Sununu wants to see passed without amendment. The avowedly pro-choice Governor said after the House vote, “I would like to thank the bipartisan group of legislators who voted to pass HB 1609 today. This is another step in the right direction as we work to make necessary changes to our laws, and I urge the House Finance Committee and members of the State Senate to keep up the momentum and get this bill across the finish line.”

The Governor said before he was elected that he’d sign a late-term abortion ban. He didn’t say he’d try to preserve one. So he signed last year’s HB 2 with FLPA, and now he’s working to gut it. He had a chance to clarify FLPA by backing the committee amendment to HB 1609, and he chose not to do that.

To his credit, the House Majority Leader Jason Osborne expressed disappointment with the outcome of the HB 1609 vote. “I am disappointed to see so many of our House members who still feel the need to cater to extremists on this issue.”

Preview and review: upcoming House hearing and votes, results of earlier hearings

On Tuesday, February 15, a House committee will hold a hearing on a medical conscience bill. Details below. What you can do: sign in online in support of the bill. Healthcare professionals, take note.

On Wednesday or Thursday, February 16 or 17, the full House will vote on a bill that was intended to gut New Hampshire’s Fetal Life Protection Act – and the House has the opportunity to adopt an amendment which would actually protect FLPA. Details below, along with a note on what will happen the same day to the abortion statistics bill. What you can do: contact your state representatives.

On Friday, February 18, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on the six life-issue bills on which they held hearings recently. Details (you guessed it) below. What you can do: contact the committee. You might be dismayed at the way the online sign-ups went on these bills. No need for dismay: let this be a spur to action.

Finally, to update an earlier post, you’ll read how the Senate voted on a pair of life-issue bills.

Continue reading “Preview and review: upcoming House hearing and votes, results of earlier hearings”

House committee deflects attack on Fetal Life Protection Act

HB 1609, an attempt by six Republican legislators to weaken the 18-day old Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), got a cool reception in the New Hampshire House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee on Tuesday.

After hearing testimony, the committee voted 11-10 along party lines to throw out the original text of HB 1609 and replace it with language clarifying the ultrasound provision of FLPA. The original sponsor of FLPA, Rep. Beth Folsom (R-Wentworth), drafted the adopted amendment which says in part that the ultrasound provision in New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limit “shall be construed to require the performance of an ultrasound only if the provider either knows that the fetus has a gestational age of at least 24 weeks or is conscious of a substantial risk that the fetus has a gestational age of at least 24 weeks.”

“Let’s fix the misunderstanding,” said Folsom, referring to false claims by abortion advocates that FLPA mandates ultrasounds before any abortion.

The amended version adopted by the committee clarifies and reaffirms FLPA with its 24-week abortion limit, without weakening the law. That’s the version that will go to the full House for a vote within a few weeks.

The original version of HB 1609, rejected by the committee, would have repealed an ultrasound requirement altogether, and would have allowed late-term abortion of children with disabilities or who were conceived in rape or incest. “This legislation is not pro-abortion,” said Rep. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury), one of 1609’s sponsors, in spite of the fact that expanding abortion is exactly what his bill would have done.

Testimony: strongly against HB 1609 as introduced

In a hearing that ran well past its allotted time, only two people testified in favor of HB 1609 as introduced, without reservation: sponsors Reps.Wolf and John Graham (R-Bedford). Governor Sununu submitted a letter to the committee expressing his support for the bill, although no one from his office offered oral testimony.

Former state senator Matthew Houde, now vice-president for government relations for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, testified that D-H supported some of HB 1609 as introduced but found “it doesn’t go far enough” to change FLPA. That was as close as the sponsors could get to winning over anyone at the hearing.

On the other hand, twenty people at the hearing testified against HB 1609 as introduced.

Among the speakers were people unwilling to write off children with “fetal anomalies,” a term favored by abortion advocates who don’t want to be accused of practicing eugenics by aborting human beings with adverse prenatal diagnoses. Some women testified to how they felt pressured during pregnancy by medical personnel who counseled abortion when a child received an adverse diagnosed in utero. They also testified to how some of those diagnoses had been wrong.

A woman spoke of the man for whom she has long been a caregiver. At birth, doctors expected him to be dead within six months due to his disabilities. That man is now 50 years old, despite the dire predictions made at his birth.

An assault survivor gently chided a legislator who spoke of late-term abortion as something that must be available to rape survivors.

A woman with more than 40 years of experience in health care urged the committee to reject the original language of 1609, saying “abortion doesn’t fix the violation” of sexual assault.

Rep. Folsom was particularly courageous as one of the last committee members to speak before the vote. Her committee colleague Rep. Joseph Schapiro (D-Keene) explained that he wouldn’t vote for Folsom’s “well-intentioned” amendment because he was concerned it didn’t take into account the difficulties experienced by survivors of rape and incest. Rep. Folsom quietly informed him that she herself is a rape survivor. “I’ve never told anyone this in public. I do understand what someone goes through when they’ve been raped. And I have had to make some decisions. It’s not easy…. The counseling that helped me move forward in my life was counseling for the rape.”

When testimony was complete and the committee went into executive session to vote on the bill, Rep. James MacKay (D-Concord) expressed concern that “the other side” hadn’t had a chance to speak. It’s unclear what “other side” he meant, since everyone present who signed up to speak was allowed to do so, even though that meant bumping other hearings to a later time. Quite simply, the sponsors of HB 1609 couldn’t round up many supporters for the in-person hearing.

Party lines?

While the committee’s vote was party-line, with Republicans in the majority, it is clear that weakening the FPLA was the goal of the six other Republicans who introduced HB 1609. The Governor apparently sides with those six.

Rep. Len Turcotte read a terse statement from the House Majority Office (GOP) opposing the bill as introduced.

Now that HB 1609 has been amended in a manner that strengthens and clarifies the FLPA instead of gutting it, will Republicans unite in supporting it?

There’s no sign of dispute among House Democrats at this point. Nothing that keeps FLPA intact will get their support. (I’ll be happy to take note of any Democrat breaking ranks on that.) On Tuesday, all 10 Democrats on House HHS voted against HB 1609 as amended. Rep. Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom) said during the hearing that the original version of HB 1609 “removed troublesome language” from FPLA, but once the bill was amended, he said it didn’t go far enough.

“Give it more than ten business days”

Amid more than two hours of testimony on the substance of HB 1609, some procedural arguments came up. One in particular struck me, courtesy of Upper Valley resident Margaret Drye, whose good sense has struck me before. She pointed out that FLPA went into effect only a few weeks ago, on January 1. Why the rush to weaken it? “Give it more than ten business days,” she advised the legislators.

I commend that thought to the Governor.

Video of the hearing may be viewed on YouTube: NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming, House Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs, 1/18/22. The hearing (testimony and executive session) for HB 1609 begins at 20:35 and ends at 3:07:30.

Post edited to correct number of co-sponsors.

Hearings this week: “Access to Abortion Care Act” and attacks on Fetal Life Protection Act

Three abortion-advancing bills will get a hearing this week in Concord. On January 18, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hear HB 1609, gutting the recently-enacted Fetal Life Protection Act (FPLA). On January 19, in the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear one bill that would repeal FPLA outright, and another that would make abortion throughout pregnancy a statutory right enforceable in court.

New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation hasn’t even been in effect for three weeks, and even that’s too long for these legislators. Mark your calendars. Plan to attend, or sign in remotely, or submit written testimony – or go for the trifecta by doing all three. You can attend the hearing without speaking; your presence will have impact. Spread the word about the need for remote sign-ins from people who can’t attend the hearings!

Reminder: “FN” simply means that the bill has a fiscal note, indicating an effect on state spending. You do not have to include those letters when communicating with a legislator about the bill.

HB 1609, weakening the Fetal Life Protection Act

Hearing: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 9:50 a.m., Legislative Office Building rooms 210-211, House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the House website at this link.

Six Republicans have introduced HB 1609, weakening FLPA, presumably making it more palatable to Governor Sununu. It would repeal the ultrasound requirement in FLPA, and add exceptions to FLPA’s 24-week limit to allow late-term eugenic abortion as well as late-term abortion of children conceived in rape or incest.

In an attempt to sweeten the bowl of mush, the sponsors added a provision calling for the collection of abortion statistics. I’ve told people for years that if the legislature ever passes a stats bill, I’ll go away happy. HB 1609 isn’t my idea of a stats bill.

The six Republicans who are co-sponsoring the measure with no help from Democrats are Reps. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury, chief sponsor), Brodie Deshaies (R-Wolfeboro), James Allard (R-Pittsfield), John Graham (R-Bedford), Bonnie Ham (R-North Woodstock), and Joseph DePalma IV (R-Littleton).

Repeat after me: “prolife” is not spelled G-O-P. A bill that makes the intentional termination of human life more readily available is not a prolife bill.

SB 399-FN, repealing the Fetal Life Protection Act

Hearing: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 1:00 p.m., State House room 100, Senate Judiciary Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the Senate website at this link.

The sponsors for some reason are calling SB 399 “repealing the fetal health protection act” when the law they’re attacking is clearly named “fetal life protection act.” Go back to page 14 of HB 2, the budget trailer law, if you don’t believe me. But I digress.

You’ll recall that the Fetal Life Protection Act, limiting abortions in New Hampshire to 24 weeks, went into effect January 1. SB 399 would repeal it. It’s a 3-line bill, deceptively nicknamed by the sponsors the “Reproductive Health Privacy Act,” and it would go into effect immediately if passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. Sponsors are all ten of the Senate’s Democrats, led by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua). House co-sponsors are Reps. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), Alexis Smith (D-Exeter), Amanda Bouldin (D-Manchester), Katherine Rogers (D-Concord), and Renny Cushing (D-Hampton).

Side note: Another effort to repeal the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA) is on hold. Abortion advocates on the House Judiciary Committee took a “retained” bill from 2021 (HB 622), threw out its language, and replaced it with language repealing FLPA. When that stunt reached the full House on January 7, the bill was tabled. Stay tuned; it’ll be back.

SB 436-FN, “relative to access to abortion care”

Hearing: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 2:00 p.m. (right after the hearing on SB 399), State House room 100, Senate Judiciary Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the Senate website at this link.

SB 436 goes like this: “It shall be the public policy of New Hampshire that, because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals, the state shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy except as provided in RSA 329:44 and RSA 132:32-RSA 132:36.”

But wait, there’s more: “An individual injured as a result of a violation of this chapter shall have a private right of action in superior court against the state for injunctive relief arising from the violation. In addition to any injunctive relief awarded, the court may award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to an injured person who prevails in an action brought under this chapter.”

So… if the state protects the First Amendment rights of peaceful prolife witnesses outside an abortion facility, does that constitute “interference” with termination of a pregnancy? Will the state get sued for not stopping peaceful prolife witness?

If SB 436 were to be enacted, would an individual seeking a late-term abortion be able to sue the state because FLPA is on the books?

Abortion advocates heard the uproar when they tried to enshrine abortion in the New Hampshire constitution a couple of years ago, and they backed off. Now, they’re trying to get the job done via statute.

Go on record any way you can

Refer to the tool kit for this legislative session, my modest attempt at a guided tour of how to testify in person and communicate online with your reps. Time to put it to work.

Current Covid precautions at the State House and Legislative Office Building include encouragement of mask use.