“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 If FLPA is repealed – as every sponsor of SB 181 would be pleased to see – then SB 181’s FLPA exception would be moot, and abortion in New Hampshire would once again be legal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).

Buffer zone repeal, 2022: House to vote week of March 15

Amidst an extremely long agenda on the New Hampshire House calendar for next week, buffer zone repeal – HB 1625 – awaits action. The Judiciary Committee on a 12-9 vote is recommending “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL). The full House in its multi-day session will vote on the bill sometime between Tuesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 17.

Identify your representatives by checking the House roster by town. Click on each name to find contact information. As them to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s ITL recommendation on HB 1625, and instead support a motion of “ought to pass” (OTP). You may find that you belong to two districts, and if that’s the case, contact all the representatives listed. If you send email, be sure your subject line is clear, since that may be the only thing a rep has time to read: “From a constituent: please vote OTP on HB 1625.”

Why HB 1625 deserves special attention

There will be other life-issue bills on the House calendar, and I will address those in a separate post. Why single out buffer zone repeal for special attention? Certainly the First Amendment implications are important, but there’s another reason. The committee’s majority report recommending ITL contains two falsehoods. Any representative supporting the ITL recommendation will be embracing them.

I cast no aspersions on Rep. Mark Paige (D-Exeter), who wrote the majority report. He may have depended on unreliable sources. All the more reason to clear up the false information.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law threatens the right of peaceful pro-life witnesses to be present on public property outside abortion facilities. The law has never been enforced since its 2014 passage. Nevertheless, it remains a stain on our statutes.

No, the buffer zone law was NOT drafted to follow Supreme Court guidelines

From the Judiciary Committee’s minority report, which is printed in the House calendar and may be the only thing most reps read about HB 1625: “…the drafters of our current buffer law carefully crafted it after the [U.S. Supreme] Court decided McCullen, thus with particular knowledge of the constitutional limits of buffer zone laws.”

That is four-alarm nonsense.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law on which New Hampshire’s law was based, was handed down on June 26, 2014. (You can read the case itself and my commentary written at the time the case was decided.)

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was introduced on December 17, 2013, passed by the House in February 2014, passed by the Senate in May 2014, and signed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan on June 10, 2014. That’s 16 days before the Supreme Court handed down McCullen.

The governor and every legislator knew perfectly well that the McCullen case was pending in the Court. They enabled the New Hampshire buffer zone law anyway.

So much for being “carefully crafted” after McCullen.

click to read more

Buffer zone vote delayed

Update on HB 430: the New Hampshire House will vote on buffer zone repeal at its next session, on a date to be announced soon. HB 430 was one of 17 calendared bills left hanging when the House ran up against a hard deadline at its borrowed venue in Bedford.

There’s no word yet on when the House will once again meet in Representatives Hall at the State House. Thus far in 2020, the House has met at University of New Hampshire facilities and, most recently, at the Bedford Sportsplex, in order to observe COVID precautions including social distancing.

40 Days for Life begins today

Four New Hampshire locations are sites for 40 Days for Life campaigns beginning Ash Wednesday, February 17, lasting until Sunday, March 28. Each campaign features peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities, along with prayer, fasting, and community outreach.

For more information about each campaign and about the global 40 Days for Life project, go to these links. Note that each campaign has its own vigil calendar, where volunteers can sign up. Each campaign also has its own special events schedule.

Statement of Peace

The 40DFL Statement of Peace, signed by all participants, is an integral part of the campaign. Among the commitments: I will only pursue peaceful, law-abiding solutions to the violence of abortion when volunteering with the 40 Days for Life campaign…I understand that breaking the law or acting in a violent or harmful manner immediately and completely disassociates me from the 40 Days for Life campaign.

What 40DFL is and isn’t

40 Days for Life aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and – in its most visible work – peaceful vigil outside abortion facilities.

Civil disobedience is not part of 40 Days for Life. It’s about witness, not protest.

Also, it’s not about ignoring COVID. Volunteers are directed to observe appropriate protocols including social distancing. A volunteer who becomes ill or is exposed to COVID is expected to stay home rather than attend the vigil.

Anyone whose health concerns make participation in group events inadvisable can pray and fast from home, joining in spirit those who are keeping vigil on the sidewalks. Remote witness sounds like a contradiction in terms to anyone unfamiliar with the contemplative tradition, but that’s what some of us have done in COVID time. Has this weakened 40DFL? Hardly. This campaign is taking place in 567 locations around the world, making it the largest spring campaign since 40DFL began in 2007.

“I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down”

Adapted from a 2015 post on this blog.

Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite.

Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.

Continue reading ““I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down””