“Access to abortion care” bill in Senate Committee January 31

Do you think that abortion is “vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals”? The sponsors of SB 181-FN think so, and they’ll be in front of the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee this week to make their case. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31, at 2 p.m. in room 100 on the first floor of the State House in Concord.

Let the committee hear from you

You can register your opinion on the bill online anytime before the hearing by using the state senate’s remote sign-in sheet. The Senate provides a sheet of directions for the remote sign-in process. For anyone planning to attend the hearing in person, the Senate guidelines for testifying at a public hearing are useful. If the hearing runs long, as is often the case on life-issue bills, signing in online and submitting written testimony are good ways to let the committee know where you stand, even of you can’t stay at the hearing until its end.

What the bill says

SB 181-FN, the so-called “Access to abortion care” bill, states “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 the Fetal Life Protection Act and the law regarding parental notification for minors seeking abortion. An individual “injured” as a result of violation of “access to abortion care” would be subject to an injunction and to paying the costs and legal fees of the injured party.

The sponsors of SB 181 include all ten Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth). There are five House co-sponsors.

What the bill means

If access to abortion becomes New Hampshire policy “because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals,” say goodbye to any effort to prevent public funds from being used directly for abortion. Conscience protections for health care personnel, already rejected repeatedly by legislators, would be further away than ever. So would informed consent legislation. If FLPA is repealed – as every sponsor of SB 181 would be pleased to see – then SB 181’s FLPA exception would be moot, and abortion in New Hampshire would once again be legal throughout pregnancy.

There will be a constitutional amendment introduced this session that would achieve everything SB 181 seeks. This bill would serve as a fallback if the constitutional amendment were to fail; SB 181 can be passed with a simple legislative majority while a constitutional change would require a three-fifths majority.

Bottom line: go online and sign in OPPOSED to SB 181-FN. If your district’s senator is on the Judiciary Committee, let that senator know where you stand. Committee members are Sharon Carson (chair; R-Londonderry), Bill Gannon (vice-chair; R-Sandown), Daryl Abbas (R-Salem), Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), and Rebecca Whitley (D-Hopkinton).

Reality check: where’s the NH abortion “ban”?

A reader sent me a message tonight asking where to find the text of New Hampshire’s Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA), which does not restrict abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy. That’s the abortion “ban” that abortion-friendly candidates and PACs keep talking about as the November 8 election approaches.

The reader wanted to show a skeptical neighbor that the current law really does have exceptions for “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life.” When she did an online search for the relevant law – RSA 329:44 – she found no such exception in the first search result she found. I looked at the page kicked up by her search. Then I saw the note at the bottom of the page: “eff[ective] Jan. 1, 2022.”

The search result she saw at first didn’t show the amended version of the law. The amendment went into effect in May of 2022.

To find the updated language, I went to the General Court website and looked for the chaptered final version of HB 1609, the bill that amended FLPA.

Here’s the situation: abortion is hardly banned in New Hampshire.

There is no limitation on abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy, except for a parental notification provision for minors seeking abortion, which can be sidestepped if the minor opts for a judicial bypass.

FLPA (RSA 329:44 as amended) limits abortions after the fetus reaches a gestational age of 24 weeks, with the following exceptions: “fetal abnormalities incompatible with life,” or a medical emergency, defined in the law as “a condition in which an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or when continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, as defined in RSA 329:43, V, of the pregnant woman.”

Whether or not you think exceptions are a good idea, they’re in there. This is all a matter of public record. Anyone attempting to obscure or deny the language of the law is not dealing in truth.

The only other abortion statute we have makes partial-birth abortion illegal. That law was passed over Gov. Lynch’s veto in 2012. Partial-birth abortion is a procedure in which the preborn child is partially delivered before being killed. The partial-birth-abortion law restricts one abortion method, not abortion in general.

I salute the reader who contacted me about this. She’s working to bring good sense and accurate information into a conversation with a neighbor. May her effort bear good fruit.

Bill in the works to put abortion in NH Constitution

A New Hampshire legislator has filed a legislative service request (LSR) for the 2023 House session, proposing a state constitutional amendment relating to “reproductive freedom.” If adopted, the measure would lock into the constitution a “right” to abortion, undoubtedly intending to override conscience rights and require taxpayer funding for direct intentional termination of human life.

This kind of thing is perfectly acceptable under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Roe is gone; it was not replaced with recognition of the right to life. States’ rights don’t necessarily advance human rights.

The LSR was requested by Rep. Amanda Toll, a Cheshire County Democrat who won her primary handily. The measure has not yet been assigned a bill number. The LSR is in line with what a state women’s group called for in its 2023 abortion agenda.

The last time a group of legislators tried to shoehorn abortion into the state constitution was in January 2020. The hearing for what was then designated CACR 14 had to be moved to Representatives Hall, since the Judiciary Committee’s room couldn’t accommodate the 150 or so people who showed up. (I reported on the proceedings in “Reps Hall goes pro-life.”) CACR 14 went down to defeat.

Times have changed. Now, people can register their opinions online when a committee hearing is coming. The number of pro-vs.-con is read into the record. The numbers matter, especially for politicians who would like all this pro-life business to Just Go Away, and who will vote whichever way they think will cause them less trouble.

Voters will go to the polls on November 8 to elect state House and Senate members for the next biennium. Not sure who to vote for? Run this LSR past your candidates and listen for something like “no way.”

Remembering Jack Kenny

Jack Kenny succumbed to cancer a few days ago. He was a Manchester journalist with broad interests, astringent opinions, and an abiding devotion to the most vulnerable human beings among us. He wrote and spoke in defense of the unborn at every opportunity.

“There are no words to adequately describe the horror of babies being butchered in, or partially out of, their mothers’ wombs. That ‘abortion rights’ have become a cornerstone of the ‘feminist movement’ is not only a crime against God and humanity, it is an intolerable slander against women.(Jack Kenny, Manchester Union Leader, January 24, 1999)

A couple of years ago, Jack invited me to be a guest on his Manchester Community TV show to talk about 40 Days for Life. The opening segment was a current-events monologue from Jack, as was customary. I forget whom he was raking over the coals at the time. I do recall that he was in fine form, working without notes. He was a deadeye shot with his words.

Then he introduced me and began asking about 40 Days for Life, and the lion became a pussycat. 40DFL is all about striving for an end to abortion, meeting violence and injustice with prayer and peaceful witness. Jack was always willing to help get the word out about that.

A classic columnist

Longtime readers of the Union Leader will recall his days as a columnist there. A quarter of a century ago he held his own with editors and writers who made every UL opinion page crackle. He did his keenest work when he wrote about abortion, its effect on public policy, and the people who were on the front lines, pro and con.

“…the right to life is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a hell of a subject for neutrality.” (Kenny, UL, 9/13/98)

He once wrote about a Labor Day breakfast at which then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen was featured speaker. A Catholic priest was honored at the event for his work promoting social justice. Jack raised an eyebrow. “If you think this is ‘single-issue’ fanaticism, ask yourself this: Would [the monsignor] share a platform with someone who advocated racial discrimination or espoused anti-Semitism?…Yet Gov. Shaheen supports, promotes and defends as a ‘right’ the killing of preborn babies. No problem. Organized labor doesn’t care and the monsignor pretends not to notice.”

I like to say that “pro-life” isn’t spelled G-O-P, but Jack was beating that drum long before I joined the band. He was driven to distraction by Republicans who failed to highlight their electoral opponents’ abortion extremism. In his columns, he unhesitatingly called out abortion-friendly Republicans. When Republican majorities in Concord failed to pass parental notification legislation, he heaped scorn where it needed to be heaped, and he didn’t let up until a parental notification law was firmly in place.

Long after his days as a regular UL columnist were over, he kept up a stream of letters to the editor, playing familiar themes. From 2019: “I know some will say abortion is not an issue in local elections, but people who do not respect the right to life may not be reliable on other issues, either. The pro-abortion forces seem to think it worth the effort to promote their culture of death candidates in local and state as well as in federal elections. Too many pro-life candidates fail to defend their position for life, leaving many voters as uninformed at the end of the election campaign as they were at the beginning.”

A persistent reporter

Back in the 1990s, “Optima Health” was big news. It was an attempt to link Manchester’s Catholic Medical Center with Elliot Hospital. One of the rocks on which that venture foundered was the revelation of a scheduled abortion at the Elliot, contravening assurances that such things wouldn’t happen under Optima. It was a complex and lengthy story. While all this was going on, Jack wrote about the people who risked jail and loss of livelihood to raise alarms about the danger Optima posed to CMC’s Catholic identity.

“Many ensnared by Optima’s web of deceit” appeared under Jack’s byline in May of 1998. It was written by a professional journalist who patiently worked to untangle the skeins of the story. At the same time, it was commentary with a definite attitude, written by a man who saw good people being given a hard time for doing the right things.

“And it all started because Optima had scheduled a ‘procedure’ its officials were telling the public was not being, and would not be, performed at either of its Manchester hospitals. Unfortunately, some honest and conscientious people have been caught up in Optima’s web of deceit.”

I recall another late-’90s incident that would have been a one-day story if Jack hadn’t helped to keep it out in the open. Pro-lifers were demonstrating peacefully one evening outside a fundraising event for an abortion advocacy group; the Portsmouth police got involved; arrests and a broken wrist ensued. Jack whipped out his pencil and started asking questions of the relevant parties, leading to “Content or conduct: just what upset Portsmouth police?” and “Portsmouth heroic police make protesting perilous.”

“The right to peacefully assemble and protest belongs as much to those protesting abortion as anyone else. Or at least it used to. It can hardly be surprising if a society that no longer respects the right to life becomes indifferent to other rights as well.”

A lighter side

For all his righteous indignation, he had a sense of humor, and he knew how to aim it at himself.

“I regard [a certain Manchester politician] as a good Republican conservative, notwithstanding her support of George W. Bush for President and her fondness for such Modernist heresies as the notion that a ‘qualified’ woman should umpire professional baseball games. I reject, however, her recent assertion that I have a ‘Cro-Magnon mind.’ Flattery will get her nowhere. My mind is orthodox Neanderthal and I intend to keep it that way.”

His faith

Politics might have been a passion, but Jack knew that his Creator transcended such matters.

A few years ago, the long-shuttered St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Nashua was revived as a parish where the Latin Mass could be celebrated daily. At the very first Mass there, the place was packed with worshippers. There were old-timers from the days when St. Stan’s had been the ethnic parish in the neighborhood. There were people like me who were curious about the Latin Mass. And then there were the people already familiar with the traditional rite, praying with joy, very much at home. Jack was one of those people.

I hardly recognized him when he sat down near me. I had never seen his face in such repose. He had left his political indignation outside the door in order to put himself at the foot of the Cross.

I trust that in God’s mercy, Jack is now surrounded by the innocent souls he defended so ardently. May his repose be complete.


Jack’s obituary requests that memorial donations be made to Pennacook Pregnancy Center, 657-B Chestnut Street, Manchester NH 03104, or St. Benedict Abbey, PO Box 67, Still River MA 01467. I’ll venture to suggest that time at a 40 Days for Life vigil would be appropriate, 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.