The front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader today carries a welcome headline – below the fold, but front page nonetheless: “Planned Parenthood votes cited.” The kicker beneath: “Ethics complaint: Campaign contributions called a factor in Right to Life member’s complaint against [Governor Maggie] Hassan, [Executive Councilor Colin] Van Ostern”.
The complainant is Darlene Pawlik, who as the article notes is a Right to Life member. Left unspecified is her work as vice-president of Save the 1. She doesn’t waste time feeling intimidated.
Pawlik’s complaint is about donations to Hassan’s and Van Ostern’s campaigns as well as expenditures not coordinated with the candidates during the 2012 and 2014 campaign cycles. Was it ethical for Hassan to support and Van Ostern to vote on subsequent PP business, including the recent do-over?
Is it ethical under New Hampshire law and regulation for elected officials to participate in votes involving groups that have given campaign contributions to those officials?
Moot point, in the view of PP of Northern New England’s vice-president of public policy, as quoted in the Union Leader. She “declined to comment”, but was moved to note that PPNNE and its Political Action Fund (note the possessive) are “separate and distinct organizations with different funding, different activities and different tax status.”
A year ago this month, I looked at some of the PPNNE donations – more like investments – in the 2014 Executive Council races. It was clear at that time that investments in candidates yielded significant dividends for the regions’s largest abortion provider.
So who’s going to hear this ethics complaint? An agency of which I’ve been hitherto unaware: the Executive Branch Ethics Committee, whose next meeting may or may not be held on August 3. Its last three scheduled monthly meetings were cancelled. No complaints to consider? I don’t know, but they sure have one now.
Van Ostern and Hassan’s spokesman have responded to Pawlik’s complaint as one might expect, using words like “baseless,” “false,” “frivolous,” and – my personal favorite – “purely motivated by politics.”
And when Hassan and Van Ostern say something’s motivated by politics, they know whereof they speak.
Stay tuned. Let’s find out if ethics in New Hampshire’s executive branch is simply a theory.
Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 was conceived in rape, and she has one question about rape-and-incest exceptions to abortion regulation: “did I deserve the death penalty?”
I interviewed Rebecca a couple of years ago. When asked about the no-exceptions position being a tough sell, she replied, “We need to speak words of life and value. Even pro-lifers need to be careful in the way they communicate. We want to change hearts and minds….Point out that rape and incest exceptions benefit the perpetrator. Abortion hides evidence of his crime. Protect a woman from rape and abortion, not from a baby.”
Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire, also of Save the 1, is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life. She was conceived in rape and as a teenager was sexually trafficked. Today, she speaks and writes about the need to defend life at all stages, regardless of the circumstances of conception. In a 2013 interview with me, Darlene said that when she decided to go public with her story, a friend advised her not to. Darlene went ahead anyway. “I said stop. No more secrets. I am the ‘exception.’”
Darlene’s web site, thedarlingprincess.com, carries the tag line “Bad beginnings do not necessitate bad endings.” She writes, “I am so passionate about the value of every life; whether one is conceived with wine and roses, in a test tube or as a result of violence. I absolut[e]ly reject the utilitarian view that people are valuable only if they can contribute to society in arbitrarily contrived ways. We should all hold to the Declaration of Independence’s admonition that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One’s right to life trumps all other rights.”
More than sixty people gathered in Manchester on Monday for an evening of prayer, pizza, and preparation in advance of Wednesday’s 40 Days for Life launch. A similar rally was held the previous day in Greenland. In Manchester, Save the 1’s Darlene Pawlik and attorney Michael Tierney were the featured speakers at the event emceed by 40DFL coordinator Jen Robidoux.
Quoting 40DFL leaders David Bereit and Shawn Carney, Jen said, “We are the last sign of hope for the mother and baby when they arrive, but also the first sign of mercy to the women as they leave.” She and her leadership team have ambitious goals, and they urge everyone volunteering for 40DFL to invite others to join in. “Invite people from your church – remember, 40 Days for Life is nondenominational. Invite people to events like the midpoint rally. Let’s fill those vigil hours [7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week]. It’s time to blow the trumpets of victory. Tonight is the beginning of the end of abortion in Manchester.”
Jen reminded everyone that accepting 40DFL’s Statement of Peace is a requirement for participation in the campaign. Common sense dictates that people praying on the sidewalk outside abortion facilities keep a cell phone or camera handy to record any incidents, and “pray with at least one other person.” (As someone who’s on the calendar for some 7 a.m. shifts, I know I can expect some solo time. Still, her guidelines make sense.)
Darlene is fresh from an appearance on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, where she joined other Save the 1 representatives to talk about why she’s pro-life in all circumstances, especially “hard cases” like rape – because she herself is a child of rape and a survivor of sexual trafficking. She’s a New Hampshire activist with a heart for women and girls in crisis, particularly those who are being sexually abused. “The girls are hard” when they approach abortion facilities, she warned. From her own experience, she knows that some of the teens at abortion facilities are brought there by their abusers. “The mindset is ‘this is what I have to do; I can’t tell my parents.’ Your message needs to be ‘there are places you can go besides here.'” To sidewalk counselors, she says “You’re the heroes here.”
Michael began with a brisk reminder: “This is not a picket or a protest, and it IS legal.” His listeners were eager for an update on the buffer zone lawsuit, Reddy v. Foster. “The buffer zone law is all about squelching pro-life speech. Why? Because the pro-life message, especially prayer, is effective.” In a status report filed in federal court last Friday, all parties to the suit agreed that there had been no “factual changes” since a temporary restraining order was issued in July to block enforcement of New Hampshire’s buffer zone law. The restraining order thus remains in place. He asked participants to contact him or Jen Robidoux if any signs go up outside facilities, delineating a zone – “we need to report that to the Court.”
Why did New Hampshire go ahead with a law targeting free speech, right after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law from Massachusetts? After all, the Supreme Court decision prompted the cities of Burlington, VT and Portland, ME to repeal abortion facility “buffer” laws. MIchael said that New Hampshire is attempting to show that its law is different, because the state itself isn’t squelching speech, but merely giving abortion providers the option of doing so. A novel approach, to be sure. It’s possible that the law might be repealed by legislators next January. Michael warned that it’s an open question whether it would be a straight repeal or a repeal followed by replacement with something worse.
Speaking of the Planned Parenthood facility in Manchester, where 40DFL has had several campaigns, Michael said PP knows it can’t defend the law. “So, they’re trying to figure out what they can get from people outside to show that we need a buffer zone. Be on your best behavior not because there are video cameras, but because of point #3 [in the 40DFL statement of peace]: ‘I will show compassion and reflect Christ’s love to all abortion facility employees, volunteers and customers.’ It’s as simple as that. Think about how best you can show Christ’s love, and you’ll be fine. Just because a person goes into a clinic, it doesn’t mean you’re not having a positive effect.”
Photos from the Greenland kickoff rally (photos by Jen Robidoux)
The next 40 Days for Life campaign is three weeks away. I’m pleased to pass along this announcement from Manchester’s 40DFL coordinator, Jennifer Robidoux. Note that this gathering is two days before the campaign formally begins. For those of you on the Seacoast, there will be a 40DFL campaign in Greenland – but If you want to join the pre-campaign festivities in Manchester, c’mon over. Pre-registration is requested.
What: 40 Days for Life kickoff rally
When: Monday, September 22, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Where: Ste. Marie Church, Montminy Hall, 378 Notre Dame Avenue, Manchester NH
Speakers: Attorney Michael Tierney on the buffer zone lawsuit, and Darlene Pawlikof Save the 1
Etc.: There is no admission charge.Pizza and drinks will be provided. Please bring a dessert to share. There will be 5:30 PM daily Mass upstairs for our Catholic friends before the rally.
[8/14: This post has been revised to reflect a change in the lineup of speakers.]
No endorsements here – remember, I’m not a PAC, and I have a day job that calls for primary neutrality – but I have no problem drawing your attention to an event this Sunday, August 17. A pro-life rally in Concord planned by a candidate, no less. Other candidates will be on hand as well, reaching out to pro-life voters. Huzzah, says I!
Come to the State House plaza Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. for this pro-life gathering sponsored by Women for Bob Smith. Should be a nice ice-free change from the usual January rally before the March for Life. Sunday’s speakers, as announced so far, include former-and-maybe-future Senator Bob Smith, Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway, Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire Right to Life, and activist Karen Testerman. On board with one of these candidates? They’d love to see you there. Still working out who to vote for in the primary, which comes a little over three weeks from the rally? Come hear what they have to say.
Speaking of Karen Testerman, I ran into her at a local coffee shop yesterday. She radiated the energy that always animates her when there’s a campaign going on. She bowed out of the primary and pledged her support to Bob Smith. She meant business. She’s looking forward to Sunday’s rally. Her parting words to me regarding the Smith campaign: “If we get fifty percent of the registered voters who are Catholic and Evangelical, we win.” Ah, but that’s the catch: will the pro-life voters, regardless of faith affiliation or lack thereof, come out in an off-year primary?
Smart candidates care about that. I look forward to hearing from some of them Sunday.