House committee deflects attack on Fetal Life Protection Act

HB 1609, an attempt by five 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The original version of HB 1609, rejected by the committee, would have repealed an ultrasound requirement altogether, and would have allowed late-term abortion of children with disabilities or who were conceived in rape or incest.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 five other Republicans who introduced HB 1609. The Governor apparently sides with those five.

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.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear challenge to Roe on December 1

The state of Mississippi enacted a law in 2018 restricting abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. It was challenged in court (of course). The case, called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for December 1, with a decision to be handed down in 2022. The Court will be asked to rule on whether states may enact any pre-viability abortion restrictions.

This gives the Court a chance to overrule Roe and Casey. It also gives the Court a chance to affirm them.

For all the recent agitation that has accompanied the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justices, no one knows how Dobbs will come out.

I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC on December 1 to stand outside the Supreme Court beside pro-life activists from around the country urging the Justices to let the Mississippi law stand. Discount airfare, one-day trip, pack a lunch: no sweat. For me, it’ll be like the March for Life seven weeks early.

For those staying closer to home, a coalition of Christian groups is organizing an online prayer event to be held on November 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. From the event’s invitation:

Join Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians across the country coming together online to pray for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. This is the case that could could overturn Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states. This historic online gathering will bring together Christians across denominations. Together, we will pray for a just outcome that protects millions of preborn babies and their mothers. Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Join us!

Find the flyer for the November event at prayfordobbs.com. There’s also a printable information sheet about the Dobbs case. Share freely.

One needn’t be Christian to recognize the right to life, and groups like Secular Pro-Life are supporting the Mississippi law. There’s room for everyone to urge the Court to move past Roe.

These “rallies” are sure to make the news

Next Saturday, October 2, rallies for “abortion justice” (Planned Parenthood’s term, not mine) will be held in various cities across the nation. Six of them will be in New Hampshire. Per PPNH Action Fund’s Facebook post, the event will be a “demonstration of our collective uprising…continuing to fight to defend access to abortion care.”

You can find that post on Facebook yourself. I choose not to link to it.

I expect this will result in front-page Sunday news coverage for those who still read printed news. It will result in immediate news stories online. Watch for reactions from various public officials (and would-be public officials).

New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation, due to go into effect January 1, is certainly one prompt for pro-abortion demonstrations. So is Texas’s so-called heartbeat law. So is the Dobbs case, involving pro-life legislation in Mississippi, which will be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in December with a decision to follow a few months later.

The Dobbs case accounts for the timing of these rallies: the Supreme Court will convene for its 2021-22 session two days later, on the first Monday in October.

Perhaps news coverage of these rallies will include a deep dive into what constitutes “abortion care” or “abortion justice.” In case it doesn’t, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Abortion is not health care. It’s the intentional induced termination of a human life. Oddly, given the claims I’ve heard many times in legislative hearings about abortion being some kind of medical event, there’s no statute in New Hampshire of which I’m aware requiring that medical personnel be involved in any abortion. Chemical or drug-induced or “medical” abortion might be one exception, although on regulatory rather than statutory grounds, due to the need for a prescription

New Hampshire does not keep track of abortion statistics and report aggregate non-identifying data to the federal Centers for Disease Control, unlike nearly every other state in the Union. Anyone who calls a stats law a threat to “abortion justice” needs to take up the matter with the CDC, which has published abortion surveillance data for decades.

New Hampshire has an unenforced buffer zone law, passed at the behest of abortion advocates who want to prevent any demonstration outside abortion facilities. Under the law, abortion facility managers may determine the time and location of activities on public sidewalks within 25 feet of the facility. The law draws no distinction between peaceful pro-life witness and violent confrontation. It does not require that laws against trespass or harassment be enforced before First Amendment rights are abrogated. No wonder the law’s unenforced. Would repeal of that buffer zone law represent a threat to “abortion justice”? Take that up with the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously struck down a very similar Massachusetts law, on narrow grounds. Even Justice Ginsburg joined that decision.

Respecting the dignity and value of each human life from conception onward is still a step too far for some of my neighbors who are drawn to phrases like “abortion justice” and “access to abortion.” We’ll get there, I hope. In the meantime, consider this: how much justice is there in not requiring medical involvement in abortion, or in failing to collect and report abortion data to the CDC, or in trying to abrogate First Amendment rights of public, peaceful, prayerful pro-life witnesses?

Rallies come and go, and these abortion-advocacy gatherings will be no different. If they leave anything in their wake, I hope it will be the jarring impression left by the oxymoron “abortion justice.”

Recent House roll calls: limiting late-term abortion, HB 625

The New Hampshire House voted 191-160 to pass HB 625, limiting abortions after 24 weeks’ gestation, with an exception for a mother’s medical emergency. The roll call is on the General Court website.

Contact information for representatives is on the General Court site as well. Thank-yous where they’re due would undoubtedly be welcomed.

A few notes

Committee recommendation overturned

Before voting on an “Ought to Pass” motion, the House had to take up the Judiciary Committee’s 11-10 recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate.” The House overturned the committee recommendation, as it later did with the committee’s ITL recommendation for HB 233 (born-alive protection).

No walkout

Unlike with the born-alive protection bill, there was no walkout by HB 625’s opponents. Only thirteen representatives are on the roll call as “Not Voting.”

Protecting born-alive children triggered a walkout by some House members, while limiting abortion did not. Interesting contrast there.

I have a separate post on the born-alive vote.

Party lines

The vote was generally along party lines, with Republicans in the majority. The exceptions are noted here.

Three Democrats joined 188 Republicans in voting “Ought to Pass (OTP)”: Richard Ames (Jaffrey), Stacie-Marie Laughton (Nashua), and John Mann (Alstead).

Fourteen Republicans joined 146 Democrats in opposing the OTP motion: James Allard (Pittsfield), Lex Berezhny (Grafton), Joseph Depalma IV (Littleton), Oliver Ford (Chester), Edward “Ned” Gordon (Bristol; Chairman of House Judiciary; voted against bill in committee), John Hunt (Rindge), John Lewicke (Mason), Norman Major (Plaistow), James Mason (Franklin), Russell Ober (Hudson), Diane Pauer (Brookline), Andrew Prout (Hudson), Dan Wolf (Newbury), and Josh Yokela (Fremont).

Next step

HB 625 will head to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 14-10 majority. As seen with the House roll call, though, party lines won’t necessarily hold.

Header photo by Dan Evans/Pixabay.