AUL Distributes “Defending Life” at CPAC

Prime swag from the exhibit hall at the Conservative Political Action Conference (@CPAC2019) outside Washington, D.C.: “Defending Life 2019.” This annual report from Americans United for Life gives a state-by-state analysis of life-issue laws. It includes calls to action for each state, listing the kinds of laws that would strengthen public policy relative to the right to life.

If you’re at CPAC, grab it. Its availability here is good news. This is a “conservative” conference rather than a “pro-life” conference, and the two are not synonymous even if there’s overlap. At the conference, it’ll get into the hands of people who might not have given much thought before to life-issue laws – at least not until the recent Born-Alive bill news from Washington. This is a teachable moment.

If you’re not at CPAC, look for “Defending Life” at

One erratum, which I have brought to the attention of AUL: New Hampshire’s governor, happily, did not veto fetal homicide legislation. Quite the contrary, in fact. I was there to cheer when he signed it.

The “exception”-al Pain-Capable Act photo photo

I just sent an email to my Member of Congress, asking him to support a piece of legislation that will probably come up in Washington late this afternoon: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s as flawed a life-issue bill as I’ll see this year in either Washington or Concord. Still, I hope it passes. And I definitely want to see who-votes-how. [Update, 5:45 p.m.: the measure passed, 242-184.]

In the absence of a clean up-or-down vote on late-term abortion, this bill is the next best thing. Don’t go looking in this bill for an affirmation of a right to life from conception to natural death; it ain’t there. This bill proposes restrictions on mid- and late-term abortions, not a ban. It doesn’t confer “personhood” and it doesn’t even apply to preborn children in the first half of pregnancy. It may or may not be good news to you that the bill poses no threat to Roe v. Wade. And still, I asked my congressman to vote Yea.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, speaking as a no-holds-barred supporter of the legislation:

“Limiting abortion at 5 months of pregnancy, as an unborn child becomes able to live outside the womb and as the abortion procedure becomes even more dangerous for women, is a commonsense law long overdue….[I]t deals directly with the ugly reality of abortion, which hurts both mother and child who are exposed to an industry willing to harm people for profit.”

Not so coincidentally, today is the second anniversary of the conviction of noted Philadelphia butcher Kermit Gosnell. Supporters of Pain-Capable see passage as a fitting way to mark the date. Earlier this year, the bill was scheduled for a vote on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, before it was sidetracked. (Nurse Jill Stanek has done all she can to make House Speaker John Boehner bring back the bill. Bound4Life has an interesting interview with her on the subject.)

A good – nay, great – provision in the bill: it calls on anyone terminating a post-20-week pregnancy to do so in a manner which “in reasonable medical judgment provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive,” consistent with the safety of the mother. No snipping, doctors.

And then there are a couple of sticky points that won’t go away.

Finer minds than mine came up with the title, which acknowledges how squeamish many people are about “terminating” a post-20-week preborn child who “reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human.” That’s from the text of the bill, in the Findings section. Great. Imposing pain except for therapeutic purposes (can I pop that dislocated shoulder back into place for you?) is to be avoided. The danger comes when that leads to the conclusion that anesthetizing the intended victim would be some kind of solution. Would that make abortion more palatable? How about anesthetizing people being subjected to forced sterilization or euthanasia? Would that make the procedures somehow all right, as long as no one feels pain? No. I recognize of course that the bill’s sponsors have no intention of going down that road.

There is also … wait for it … a rape-and-incest exception. The hashtag for the Twitterfest on this bill is #theyfeelpain. I almost want to counter with #theyfeelpaintoobutnevermind. The redoubtable Abby Johnson is simply using #NoExceptions.

Still, I’ve supported policies with such exceptions before, notably the Hyde Amendment. Did you realize that Hyde only restricts the use of federal Health and Human Services funds for abortion in certain government programs? Other federal funds are unaffected. Did you know that it’s not automatic, but has to be renewed each budget cycle? That it has those exceptions I mentioned? And still, I support it and I even want to see it expanded to cover more federal departments.

I’ve asked Congressman Guinta to support H.R. 36. He knows I’m watching.  How about you?


Ten hours at CPAC

In spite of practical considerations, I’m fond of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an expensive indulgence, but I managed a one-day trip this year. Even by my First-in-the-Nation standards, it’s an impressive gathering.

Never mind the headliners. The best of the presentations are usually to be found in the breakout sessions, and this year was no exception. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List joined Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life and Darla St. Martin of National Right to Life spoke to a packed room about pro-life victories throughout the country in 2014. As New Hampshire turns ever bluer on the political map (I’m not giving away any secrets here), it’s easy to lose sight of the pro-life political gains elsewhere in other states. Ask Iowa’s Joni Ernst about that.

Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee
Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee

A lower-profile presentation by Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee of Women Speak Out, an SBA List PAC, was a nuts-and-bolts description of the field effort that went into the winning campaigns last year. They called their session “The Margin of Victory.” No theoretical stuff here. How many canvassers, how many live phone calls, how many face-to-face interactions with pro-life voters did it take to yield victories for pro-life candidates? This was independent PAC with an astonishing ground game, independent of any party. They got results with good hard field work: one-on-one contact with voters.

One thing was clear after hearing from candidates and pro-life activists all day: don’t expect the presidential candidates to lead on the life issues. That’s going to be the voters’ job. Most pro-life or fence-sitter candidates will bring up the life issues only if asked – so be prepared to ask. (Pro-abortion candidates seem to have no trouble being upfront about their beliefs, if you can call it “upfront” when they use euphemisms like “pro-choice.”)

All photos by Ellen Kolb for Leaven for the Loaf

“Be people of hope”: AUL’s Lamontagne speaks at 40DFL wrap-up

Ovide Lamontagne speaking to Manchester 40DFL volunteers
Ovide Lamontagne speaking to Manchester 40DFL volunteers

Ovide Lamontagne is general counsel of Americans United for Life – except when he’s back home in Manchester, New Hampshire. There, he’s simply Ovide, having made his mark through the years as attorney, candidate, chairman of the state Board of Education, and supporter of numerous nonprofit organizations in the area. He was in town Saturday to address the closing gathering of the season’s 40 Days for Life campaign in Manchester.

“Be people of hope”

“40 Days for Life is founded on hope. Be people of hope,” he began. He recalled the 2012 election, in which he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire. “People have come up to me over the past two years to say how frustrated they were over what happened in 2012 in that election. How angry and disenfranchised they felt. And I say to them that’s OK. That’s human. I felt frustrated about the way things worked out. But I submit to you we cannot lose hope. We are called to be people of hope and faith and love. Working with 40 Days for Life, we are becoming that.”

He began working for AUL, “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team,”  in 2013. “Thank God for 40 Days for Life. We filed an amicus brief for 40 Days for Life in a case called McCullen v. Coakley” – the Massachusetts buffer zone case, well-known to his listeners, who applauded his reference to the case. “Thank God the Supreme Court made the right decision. We were able to write in our brief what 40 Days for Life does – affirm women and men. Young people are reaching out to women who think they don’t have a choice.”

“It starts in the states”

Ovide outlined the background of AUL’s work and legal strategy. “The U.S.A is one of four countries that allows abortions through nine months of pregnancy.”  He knows that U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is trying to win re-election by casting herself as more “pro-choice” than her opponent, Scott Brown. Ovide said, “That means [abortion] through all nine months of pregnancy.” The good news: “62% of Americans polled said there should be more restrictions on abortion, and 64% said they support a late-term abortion ban.”

That’s where AUL’s current strategy kicks in. “[A late-term ban] is what we’re trying to encourage Congress to pass, so we can bring some sanity to what is an extreme position in America and in New Hampshire.”

Americans United for Life has made a priority of developing suggested state-level state legislation, known collectively as the Women’s Protection Project. “The pro-life movement needs a mother-child strategy, and that’s what we do at AUL. The reality is there are two victims of abortion, every time: unborn children and women. Abortion harms women. We are better than that.” Abortion-facility regulation, while not yet in place in New Hampshire, has been adopted in some other states, notably Texas. “Pro-abortion forces say aw, come on, [things like] hallway widths are relevant to getting an abortion? Ask the family of Karnamaya Mongar.” Mongar was one of Kermit Gosnell’s victims, who died following a late-term abortion. The Gosnell grand jury report cited narrow hallways in Gosnell’s facility as one factor that delayed emergency responders from being able to evacuate Mrs. Mongar from the building.

“The state has the right to regulate abortion to make it safe for women. You can’t pass a law for the purpose of closing clinics, but know this: this industry is about making money, and they’re not going to raise standards. They’re going to say we have to close our clinics instead. And that’s OK. We can’t do this without you. It starts in the states.”

“The civil rights movement of this generation”

It’s not lost on Ovide that a hallmark of the contemporary pro-life movement is the involvement of youth, whether it be at the national March for Life or the local 40DFL campaign. “Things are happening in the pro-life movement that are very encouraging. People are waking up to what is going on. And it’s the young people who are going to save our country.

“We can’t give up, and have to move when, where and how we can to advance the culture of life in America. We are the civil rights movement of this generation.”

One more day

Jennifer Robidoux, coordinator for this 40 Days for Life campaign, reminded everyone that the campaign’s formal conclusion is Sunday evening. “There’s still a day and a half. Wouldn’t it be great to end this campaign with every hour covered?” She announced that she’s stepping down as coordinator, leaving plenty of time for another volunteer to step forward. “The spring campaign is just around the corner. The rest of the leadership team is ready to get started.”

Ovide (left) with Manchester 40DFL leadership team: Pastor Don Colageo, Geneva Beaudoin, Jennifer Robidoux, Beth Scaer, Joan Silvernail, Maurice Huberdeau
Ovide (left) with Manchester 40DFL leadership team: Pastor Don Colageo, Geneva Beaudoin, Jennifer Robidoux, Beth Scaer, Joan Silvernail, Maurice Huberdeau


Three things the Obamacare “Fix” doesn’t fix

Obamacare signups were a mess due to IT problems, and it turns out people could not “keep their policies, period,” so now there’s all manner of fuss and bother going on inside the Beltway to fix the mess. Give states extra time to implement changes, let some people keep their policies for awhile longer: who knows what other “fix” the President and Congress will come up with before the weekend’s over?

It’s all beside the point. I welcome anything that slows the Obamacare juggernaut, but that’s only a start. The basic problem with the Patient “Protection” and “Affordable” Care Act has nothing to do with a poor website launch or premium hikes.

1. The HHS Mandate is still in place.

Whether Obamacare is enacted now or in a delayed manner as currently proposed, it retains all the 15,000+ pages of regulations that were piled onto the two-thousand page bill. That includes the mandate that all health insurance policies cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Despite the carve-outs devised by the President and HHS so far for certain “religious” employers, many employers who provide health insurance for employees and who have religious objections to paying for contraceptive/abortifacient coverage are still stuck. See the latest from The Becket Fund on lawsuits by employers challenging the Mandate.

The business owners going to court aren’t litigation-happy. They didn’t ask for this fight. They want their religious beliefs respected, and they don’t want the President to pick and choose which people and organizations are “religious” enough to qualify for an Obamacare exemption. The law demands that they knuckle under or else face ruinous fines. The courts are their last resort, as long as the executive and legislative branches are deaf to their appeals.

ACLJ gives an example of how the fines could add up. A business with 100 employees, and an employer-provided health plan that is not Obamacare-compliant, would rack up $3.65 million in fines per year. ACLJ goes on to point out that the fine for not offering health coverage at all would be only $140,000. That seems to give the lie to claims that Obamacare is about providing insurance to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. There seems to be an even more compelling priority for the feds: protecting the HHS mandate.

2. The federal government is still using Obamacare to promote the false idea that women’s fertility is a disease. 

I keep hearing the President and HHS Secretary Sebelius talk about “inferior” plans. They say that Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans, even if more expensive than my current insurance, will be “a better product.” What makes them “better,” in the eyes of our President? The new plans cover so much more than old ones, thanks to Obamacare.

“Thanks” a lot.

Among the “preventive care” services that every Obamacare health insurance policy must include is contraception for women. This includes drugs that can have abortifacient effects – although HHS’s hired guns assure us that a drug that prevents implantation is not really causing an abortion, which defies biology, but never mind that for now. Contraception for men is not considered “preventive.” While women and adolescent girls will be able to get birth control pills with no co-pay, men still have to pay for condoms. Apparently, suppression of women’s fertility is a serious priority under Obamacare.

Senator Shaheen (D-NH) used to talk about the evils of a health care system that treated being a woman as a “pre-existing condition.” Oddly enough, Shaheen has been fully on board with Obamacare, a law that relies on treating women in precisely that way.

Yesterday, after outrage from people who were losing their policies finally hit some kind of tipping point, the President said he’d allow some delay. People can keep their old plans for a little while longer, maybe. Still, delay is not repeal. Any reprieve is temporary. Yesterday’s speech didn’t settle anything.

3. It’s nearly impossible to avoid funding abortion providers under Obamacare.

Can’t Americans averse to abortion just sit this one out, so to speak? No.

Americans United for Life lists some of the ways we’re all affected as Obamacare goes forward.

  • Allowing the use of federal tax dollars for abortion, abortion coverage and abortion inducing drugs and devices.
  • Including a “Covert Abortion Premium Mandate” within Exchange plans that include abortion coverage.
  • Pretending that the Hyde Amendment protections were enough to prohibit direct payment for abortions.
  • Permitting federally subsidized Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) to provide abortion coverage through the state insurance exchanges.
  • Failing to prohibit all multi-state qualified health plans from providing coverage for abortion.
  • Mandating coverage of drugs and devices known to end unborn life through the guise of “preventive care.”
  • Failing to provide comprehensive First Amendment conscience protections for individuals, employers, and insurance companies that have religious or moral objections to abortion.

(Full AUL post here.)

I see that some Planned Parenthood affiliates are getting government grants to be “navigators,” helping people sign up for Obamacare. Given the web site rollout, that’s one project PP might have been wise to skip.

A report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute explains how the number of publicly-subsidized abortions will increase under the law in its current form. Author Charles A. Donovan gets down into the weeds of the “Affordable” Care Act, where unfortunately so much is hidden – much that could have been exposed had then-Speaker Pelosi in Congress allowed time for her colleagues to read the bill before passing it on a straight-party-line vote in 2009.

A few of Obamacare’s lousy consequences have finally become front-page news for days on end, forcing a Presidential apology and a hasty House vote to let people keep their plans. Turns out the President was full of prunes when he said we could keep our health insurance plans if we liked them. The web site with which we were supposed to sign up for plans has been a wreck. Rates are going up because of all the Obamacare mandates (my son learned last night that his rate is going up 60%, if he decides to keep carrying insurance at all).

To the extent that all these issues force reappraisal of the law, good. Solving these issues will not get at the root of the law’s flaws, though. No matter what Obamacare’s partisans may say, providing health coverage to uninsured Americans cannot possibly be the goal of the law – not while the HHS Mandate stands, while business owners have more incentive to drop than to keep insurance for their workers, and while federally-dictated mandates piled onto insurance policies force increased premiums on all of us. In my area, Obamacare will have the effect of reducing access to health care, too, as the sole health insurance underwriter in the state had to trim its network in order to afford accommodating all of Obamacare’s provisions.

If the President’s health care law is really about protecting the poor and the uninsured, ditch the HHS mandate. Ditch the requirement that every health insurance policy perpetuate the lie that women are broken and need to be fixed. Ditch the attacks on religious liberty.

To the extent that the President defends those fundamental flaws while he scrambles to fix a website, he tells me that health care is not his genuine priority.