Melissa Ohden: a voice for abortion survivors

Part of a series marking the tenth anniversary of the Leaven for the Loaf blog.

My first post about Melissa Ohden, back in 2016, included a video of her testimony to Congress about surviving the attempted abortion that was meant to kill her. After informing members of Congress about the number of documented abortions occurring annually, she went on to say “I was meant to be one of them. I should have been just another statistic.”

photo of Melissa Ohden seated
Melissa Ohden (photo from abortionsurvivors.org)

Melissa’s advocacy for abortion survivors had started years before. In 2012, she founded the Abortion Survivors Network. The Network is thriving, having brought together hundreds of people who have survived attempts to abort them. They are “more than a choice,” as ASN’s tagline proclaims.

“We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

Melissa Ohden, Abortion Survivors Network

Melissa was kind enough to reply recently when I asked her for an update on her work. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team at The Abortion Survivors Network, five of whom are also abortion survivors. We are fast approaching being connected with 600 Abortion survivors. We’re offering more supports and programs to not only survivors but family members, including the women who experienced failed abortions.”

What’s ahead for ASN, and how you can help

What’s ahead for ASN? “We’re currently growing so rapidly that in the next five years, I foresee that we’ll be offering multiple retreats a year, including for families. We’re starting right now to research and implement the best practices of healing and community support for survivors who have also had abortions, themselves, and what care is most supportive to children and teenagers. Contributing what we learn to journals and the pro-life healing community is all part of what we’ll continue to do.”

In New Hampshire, efforts have thus far fallen short to pass “born-alive” legislation to protect children surviving attempted abortion. Other states have seen more success. What has worked, where born-alive laws are enacted? “We’ve continued to see that sharing the stories of survivors, coupled with data about the incidence of born alive survivors is impactful. Just because there are Abortion survivors doesn’t mean born alive legislation isn’t needed (policymakers and the abortion industry attempt to paint that picture).”

What can a person do to support ASN and the survivors it represents? “The average person can educate themselves about born alive survivors (our websites are great resources), learn our stories, and educate policymakers and people around them about this. Most people really have no idea this happens and the frequency to which it does.”

I can add one more thing: read and share Melissa’s book, You Carried Me: a Daughter’s Memoir (2018: Plough Publishing House). She tells her story with compassion and grace.

Post header image by truthseeker08/Pixabay.com

Looking to 2020: State Legislation

More than a thousand bills have piled up, awaiting hearings in the 2020 session of the New Hampshire General Court – or legislature, to use a less exalted term. Another bill to be voted on is a holdover from this year, which deserves your notice.

Anti-Trafficking Bill To Be Voted On In January

The retained bill is HB 201, which will get a House vote in early January. It seeks to increase the allowable penalty for adults buying sex from minors. It should not have been held over – “retained” is the technical term. Passage last spring would have been the right outcome. Survivors of juvenile sex trafficking supported the bill with compelling testimony. One of them will be a familiar name to longtime readers: Darlene Pawlik, who was an absolute showstopper who called out nonsense when she heard it.

I’ll make a long, infuriating story short, with a note that an organization called Decriminalize Sex Work has hired New Hampshire lobbyists to advance its agenda: HB 201 was retained by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. After consideration this past fall, the committee voted to recommend Ought to Pass on the bill. The full House is likely to vote on that recommendation on January 8 or 9. Good excuse for contacting your state reps, in my humble opinion: YES on the OTP motion for retained bill HB 201.

Thumbs up to chief sponsor Rep. Linda Massimilla (D-Littleton) and her co-sponsors, and to Rep. Nancy Murphy (D-Merrimack) who wrote the committee OTP recommendation for her colleagues.

No Hearings Yet

For all the bills described below, there are no hearings scheduled yet. Watch this blog and its related Facebook page for updates as the House and Senate calendars are published. As it happens, all these bills will start in the House Judiciary Committee, even if their subject matter might seem to fit better elsewhere. Such decisions are made by finer minds than mine.

Enshrining Abortion Into N.H. Constitution

Watch out for CACR 14. This is a proposed constitutional amendment, which in order to pass will have to get a three-fifths vote in the House, three-fifths in the Senate, and then two-thirds from voters in next November’s general election. The governor has no substantive say in the process. Here we go:

“The right to make personal reproductive medical decisions is inviolate and fundamental to the human condition. Neither the State nor any political subdivision shall infringe upon or unduly inconvenience this right.”

It doesn’t say “abortion.” It doesn’t have to, in order to place abortion squarely into the New Hampshire constitution as a protected right – a right “inviolate and fundamental.”

You’ll forgive me if I shout at you about this one. Silence implies consent to the amendment’s corollary: that there is no inherent “right” to life, only a privilege to be conferred by others. Now that’s discrimination.

Sponsors: Reps. Timothy Smith (D-Manchester), Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), Catherine Sofikitis (D-Nashua), Sherry Frost (D-Dover), Heidi Hamer (D-Manchester), Chuck Grassie (D-Rochester), Arthur Ellison (D-Concord).

Born-Alive Infants Protection

HB 1675 (chief sponsor Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, R-Derry) seeks to assure medically appropriate care and treatment for any infant born alive following an attempted abortion.

The bill would be a step toward making New Hampshire a bit less Gosnell-friendly. I look forward to reporting on who supports it and who opposes it at the hearing.

Assisted Suicide

After two years of trying to “study” assisted suicide via end-of-life related bills, advocates of assisted suicide have come out with a straightforward bill. HB 1659-FN has nine co-sponsors, led by Rep. Catt Sandler (D-Somersworth). The analysis in the heading of the bill says it “allows a mentally competent person who is 18 years of age or older and who has been diagnosed as having a terminal disease by the patient’s attending physician and a consulting physician to request a prescription for medication which will enable the patient to control the time, place, and manner of such patient’s death.”

You might wonder “what’s with the FN in the bill number?” FN means “fiscal note,” and it’s attached to any bill that is expected to cost money. Such bills go to the Finance Committee for a closer look (and a second full-chamber vote) if they pass the full House or Senate after the first committee is done with it.

While we’re on the subject: the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, whose USA affiliate is headed by former New Hampshire legislator Nancy Elliott, is a good source of information. I’ll cite others as HB 1659 makes its way through the legislative process.

Prenatal Non-Discrimination

The co-sponsors of HB 1678-FN think that Down syndrome, genetic abnormalities, and being an undesired sex shouldn’t call for a death sentence. The bill would prohibit abortions performed solely for one or more of those reasons. Chief sponsor is Rep. Abigail Rooney (R-Milton).

The bill calls for a limited penalty for violations by the abortion provider: liability for damages, and revocation or suspension of medical license if the provider has one. This is not a let’s-jail-abortionists bill. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone tries to say otherwise. Further, no penalty would attach to the mother of the child, and her anonymity in any ensuing civil action would be protected.

Heartbeat Bill

Into this Gosnell-friendly state comes HB 1475-FN, sponsored by Rep. Dave Testerman (R-Franklin) and Rep. Walt Stapleton (R-Claremont). It would prohibit abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Parental Notification

HB 1640-FN (chief sponsor Rep. Werner Horn, R-Franklin) would repeal the judicial-bypass provision of the New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortion.

If this bill should pass and be signed by Governor Sununu, it would pose a challenge to U.S. Supreme Court rulings on parental-involvement-in-abortion laws dating back to 1976. See the testimony of Americans United for Life on a Florida parental involvement law from March 2019.

So – ready to roll? I’ve already picked out my favorite parking space near the Legislative Office Building. It’s going to get a workout in 2020.

Gosnell Was Convicted Six Years Ago, and N.H. Remains Gosnell-Friendly

May 13, 2013, Philadelphia: Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder, manslaughter, and a couple of hundred lesser offenses. He’s in prison for life. If he were released, he could set up shop in New Hampshire and commit with impunity some of the same actions for which he’s now imprisoned.

Gosnell snipped the necks of children who survived his attempts to abort them, one of whom he joked was big enough “to walk me to the bus stop.” Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who came to him for what she thought would be a safe and legal abortion, was sedated to death by the staff Gosnell was supposed to oversee, using protocols he had established to compensate for the staff’s lack of formal medical training.

The carnage was uncovered only accidentally, triggered by a 2010 drug raid at Gosnell’s “clinic,” which was a pill mill on top of its other charms. (Convictions on twelve drug offenses netted him another 30 years in prison.)

He got away with abusing women and children for a long time, because the one-time governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – a Republican named Tom Ridge, later entrusted with the Department of Homeland Security – ordered that abortion regulations not be enforced. They might have interfered with abortion access, and that was something Ridge wouldn’t countenance. Ridge’s policy prevailed for an appalling length of time.

Karnamaya Mongar isn’t around to offer her thoughts on Ridge’s defense of her rights.

New Hampshire differs from Pennsylvania in that we don’t have unenforced abortion regulations as far as we know; instead we have next-to-no regulations.

Read the rest of the post at GraniteGrok.

Sen. Hassan Replies to Message on Born-Alive Bill

I heard back from Sen. Hassan in reply to my emailed request to her that she support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Her message appears to have nothing to do with the bill, which calls for care of children who survive attempted abortion. I note that she arrived at her position after, in her words, “careful consideration.”

If I hear from Sen. Shaheen, I’ll post her reply as well.

Thank you for contacting me with your support for S. 311, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. I value your opinion and appreciate you taking the time to write to me about this important issue.

Late term abortions in the United States are exceedingly rare and occur in the context of complex and difficult health care decisions. I believe patients — in these situations women — must be provided the freedom, privacy, and dignity to make these decisions in consultation with their health care providers and family, in accordance with their consciences, and free from government interference. If a proposed law does not meet this standard, I will be compelled to oppose it.

Thank you again for writing to share your thoughts, and I hope that you keep in touch with me. Though we may not see eye to eye on this issue, I take your concerns seriously and hope that you know I arrived at my position after careful consideration. For more information on this and other important issues please visit my website at https://www.Hassan.Senate.Gov/.

On Party Unity: a Tale of Two Bills

The New Hampshire House voted a few minutes ago to kill a “right-to-work” bill. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are noisy with the cries of RTW advocates who are upset that SB 11 failed on the Republicans’ watch. Right-to-work is in the state GOP platform. Republican leadership in legislative and executive branches promoted the bill.  It failed anyway, by 23 votes.

*Yawn.*

No one who has seen pro-life bills fail in the New Hampshire House under Republican majorities can be shocked when “party unity” fails.

Many of today’s House members were in office last year when the House voted 167-116 to kill a bill (HB 1627) to protect children born alive after attempted abortion. There was a Republican majority in place then, too, under the same Speaker who holds the position today.

One difference between today’s vote and last year’s: protecting children born alive after attempted abortion was not a leadership priority. Unlike with RTW, there was no press conference by the state GOP calling on reps to pass HB 1627. Unlike with RTW, the Speaker didn’t hand over the gavel to another rep so he could go on record supporting HB 1627.

I happen to think RTW legislation is a good idea, and I’m sorry today’s bill lost. But surprised? Shocked?

Please. Without party unity on the fundamental right to life, party unity on anything else seems irrelevant.

I’m hanging on to what the state of New Hampshire insists on calling my “undeclared” voter registration. Any candidate who wants my vote knows how to earn it.