Legislators to meet for Organization Day December 7

An excerpt from the newsletter I sent to subscribers today:

A year ago, I was standing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with about 2000 other people, rallying as the Justices heard the arguments in the Dobbs case. I took the photo below that morning, as the bright sky seemed to express all our hopes.

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court the day of arguments in the Dobbs case, 12/1/21

Since then, New Hampshire has passed the Fetal Life Protection Act, then weakened it. The Dobbs decision has overturned Roe, but it didn’t recognize a right to life. 

Against that backdrop, New Hampshire legislators will meet next week for Organization Day, kicking off the 2023 legislative session. Winners of November’s state House and Senate election will take office on Wednesday, December 7, at 10:00 a.m. The day’s session is open to the public and should also be live-streamed. 

Today’s newsletter included a preview of the life-issue legislation coming to the State House in 2023. If you’re not already a subscriber, click on http://eepurl.com/hTBV09 and I’ll make sure you get this and future editions. The occasional email newsletters are a supplement to the blog.

Thirty minutes to look back, then turn the page

I often spend the morning after an election at a local coffee shop or diner. I invite politically-minded acquaintances. There’s one rule: whatever happened on Election Day, we take 30 minutes to crab and moan about any results worth crabbing and moaning about. Once the 31st minute hits, the post-mortem is over. We look to the future.

No one joined me this week. I still have my 30 minutes to go.

Quick review of this week’s election results: Members of New Hampshire’s federal delegation, abortion advocates all, were re-elected. New Hampshire’s enormously popular self-described pro-choice governor won big, in one of the most impressive results in the state, making him even more influential in the NHGOP than before. The 400-member New Hampshire House went from 213 Republican seats to just a shade over 200, depending on how recounts go. The New Hampshire Senate is narrowly Republican, short of the number needed to override any veto the governor might take it into his head to issue. The Executive Council is 4-1 Republican, with none of the Republicans getting more than 53.2% of a district’s vote.

Dobbs: mishandled

“…please, GOP, don’t screw this up by dodging Dobbs.” That was my plea in June after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. “Look for apocalyptic pronouncements from [Democrat] candidates about how Dobbs undermines women and threatens the Republic.” Check.  I added at the time that if Republican candidates tried to shift focus to inflation and the economy, they’d get what they deserved.

They sure did.

The Democratic Party up and down the ticket used abortion as its leading message, warning that women’s rights were at risk. No mention from them – or from Republicans, for that matter – of New Hampshire’s pro-life women. Federally, Republicans went with inflation as the main reason to vote GOP.

Here at home, how many Republicans did you hear talk about the risk to medical conscience rights if abortion-friendly candidates win? How many Republicans vowed to stand firm against public funding of abortion, including within Medicaid? How many talked about our state’s failure to report abortion statistics, which is a women’s health issue? With a slim majority, will New Hampshire Republican leaders decide that the time isn’t right to oppose the proposed state constitutional amendment that would make the direct intentional termination of human life a “right”?

I learned in 2011 and 2012 not to put faith in GOP majorities, large or small, where the right to life is concerned. The New Hampshire senate in that biennium had a 19-5 Republican majority. Can’t get much more impressive that that. You know what came out of that session? Parental notification and a ban on partial birth abortion. Good news. But I remember what failed in the Senate back then, too, after House passage: a prohibition on public funding of abortion (tabled), a Women’s Right to Know Act to require informed consent for abortion (Inexpedient to Legislate), and a post-20-week abortion limitation (interim study).

My 30 minutes are up.

The 31st minute and beyond

I thank God that pro-life work doesn’t depend on who’s in office. Grassroots work will yield results in the long run. If no group dedicated to constructive action already exists in your church or town or group, now’s the time to start one. Don’t wait for someone higher up the organizational chart to give you permission. Better that you work alone than not at all, but working with a group helps provide structure and encouragement for constructive work.

Here are few ideas, and this is hardly a comprehensive list.

Pregnancy care centers around the state offer abortion-free care for women and their families. They need volunteers, staff, and board members. They need advocates in the community who tour the facilities, get to know the workers, and then share the good news with others, one conversation at a time, including conversations with elected officials. The centers need resources not only for direct aid to vulnerable clients but also for facility security.

Eugenic abortion was written into New Hampshire law this year, signaling a troubling better-dead-than-disabled policy preference that has implications across the life-issue spectrum. Learn to tell your story, if you’ve carried to term a child with a life-limiting diagnosis. Learn to tell your story if you’re living with a disability or living with a terminal illness. Show how we can help each other choose life. Your story could help someone realize that there’s a human cost to embracing the direct intentional termination of human life.

I hope voters within the pro-life movement have learned that being in thrall to politicians who say they’re pro-life, and then express contempt for anyone who disagrees with them, yields only Pyrrhic victories.

Write thank-you notes to the people you know whose work helps build a culture of life. I’m going to be writing a few notes today, to pro-life reps who will be leaving office soon. They must have felt isolated at times.

Nonviolent public action doesn’t depend on majorities. Join vigils. Pray and work. If a march is constructive, be part of it. Come to hearings, and bring a friend.

I’ve been all over the state to speak about constructive civic engagement for pro-life Granite Staters. If I can be of assistance to you in your area, let me know.

2023, here we come.

Bill in the works to put abortion in NH Constitution

A New Hampshire legislator has filed a legislative service request (LSR) for the 2023 House session, proposing a state constitutional amendment relating to “reproductive freedom.” If adopted, the measure would lock into the constitution a “right” to abortion, undoubtedly intending to override conscience rights and require taxpayer funding for direct intentional termination of human life.

This kind of thing is perfectly acceptable under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Roe is gone; it was not replaced with recognition of the right to life. States’ rights don’t necessarily advance human rights.

The LSR was requested by Rep. Amanda Toll, a Cheshire County Democrat who won her primary handily. The measure has not yet been assigned a bill number. The LSR is in line with what a state women’s group called for in its 2023 abortion agenda.

The last time a group of legislators tried to shoehorn abortion into the state constitution was in January 2020. The hearing for what was then designated CACR 14 had to be moved to Representatives Hall, since the Judiciary Committee’s room couldn’t accommodate the 150 or so people who showed up. (I reported on the proceedings in “Reps Hall goes pro-life.”) CACR 14 went down to defeat.

Times have changed. Now, people can register their opinions online when a committee hearing is coming. The number of pro-vs.-con is read into the record. The numbers matter, especially for politicians who would like all this pro-life business to Just Go Away, and who will vote whichever way they think will cause them less trouble.

Voters will go to the polls on November 8 to elect state House and Senate members for the next biennium. Not sure who to vote for? Run this LSR past your candidates and listen for something like “no way.”

We’re in the post-Roe era

Today, the sun is setting on the era of Roe.

For those of you in a hurry: the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its Dobbs opinion, and Roe v. Wade is overturned along with its successor Casey decision. Abortion regulation is to be left to the states. Peruse the giant-sized decision at your leisure.

For those who want a deeper dive, I have some thoughts for your consideration.

The leaker and the bullies lost

Whoever leaked the draft opinion – and I’ll maintain all my days that it was an abortion-friendly Court clerk – lost a huge gamble. It backfired, even if the initial reaction was all the leaker could have hoped for. The leak sparked outrage among abortion advocates. Justices were doxxed and home addresses were made public. There was an assassination plan against Justice Kavanaugh. Bullies felt emboldened.

Five Justices stood up to all that. The vote was 5 to overturn Roe, 3 opposed, and a vote by the Chief Justice to uphold Mississippi’s law while still upholding Roe. (So that’s what a cut-rate Solomon sounds like.) Here’s to Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

The bullying might not be over, and we might see it close to home. Time will tell. The Court has just given a powerful example of how to face it.

The Court did not recognize the fundamental right to life

Absolutely nothing in Dobbs‘ majority opinion recognized the fundamental right to life of each human being from the moment of conception.

I have worked my entire adult life for our laws to recognize human dignity, to support mothers as well as children, to reject eugenics, to defend conscience rights for health care workers who want nothing to do with abortion.

And here I am, cheering a decision that does none of that. We have been conditioned to set the bar low and then cheer when we clear it.

Thanks be to God that Roe was not affirmed. We move on from there.

New Hampshire remains abortion-friendly, for now

All that State House action I’ve been writing about since 2012 will keep right on going. The Dobbs decision returns abortion regulation to the states, meaning the people we elect to be our state representatives and senators and executive councilors and (God help us) governors will still be the ones to call the shots on our behalf.

New Hampshire law still permits eugenic abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. That won’t change. In fact, the Mississippi law upheld by the Court today had a 15-week abortion limit, with a eugenic exception. Preborn children with life-limiting diagnoses are not protected.

The New Hampshire constitution could still be amended to protect abortion – or the constitution’s “privacy” amendment could be construed by our state Supreme Court to accomplish the same thing.

New Hampshire legislators have repeatedly rejected conscience protections for health care workers who choose not to be involved in abortion. That’s okay under Dobbs.

Our parental notification statutes and ban on partial-birth abortion could be repealed by our legislature. That’s okay under Dobbs, too.

Buffer zone laws consistent with past Court decisions will remain on the books. So will unenforced buffer zone laws like New Hampshire’s.

Also fine and dandy under Dobbs: refusal to collect abortion statistics – refusal to require making sonogram images available (not mandated, but available) to abortion-minded women – giving state dollars to abortion providers.

In other words, citizen activists will still need to beat a path to hearings in Concord every single session. If they don’t, abortion advocates will prevail. Simple as that.

Pregnancy care centers will become more crucial than ever

The growth and strengthening of the network of pregnancy care centers in New Hampshire has been a bright spot in Granite State culture. These abortion-free agencies go far beyond crisis pregnancy management. They support pregnant and parenting women and their partners as far as resources allow, with most of those resources coming from private donors.

Ironically, in the days following the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion, some of those pregnancy care centers in other states were subject to attacks.

In the face of opposition, it’s time to redouble the efforts that have brought pregnancy care networks this far.

At least one party will handle Dobbs to its advantage

Indie voter speaking here: please, GOP, don’t screw this up by dodging Dobbs.

The Democrat party, from its national leadership down to its New Hampshire town committees, has been consistent in its abortion-friendly messaging. As an activist, I recognize political savvy when I see it, even if it’s in the service of something dreadful. Look for apocalyptic pronouncements from candidates about how Dobbs undermines women and threatens the Republic. Look for tightly-focused attacks on any Republican who’s squishy on the right to life.

As for those squishy Republicans, if their response to Dobbs is to try to shift focus to inflation and the economy, they’ll get what they deserve. Unfortunately, so will their constituents. Then the Dobbs-dodging candidates will wonder why 40% of New Hampshire voters refuse formal affiliation with either party.

Nonviolence: walk the talk

Public pro-life witness is likely to become riskier. Our response to provocation has to be more than “be nice.” It’s time to move past talking about nonviolence as a mere theoretical tactic.

Are you ready to surrender your natural right to self-defense if you’re physically attacked for defending life? Are you ready to practice nonviolence in speech as well as action? Are you ready to be arrested for nonviolent public witness, or are you worried about how that would affect your job or your reputation? Are you prepared to document events when you’re on the scene of a challenge to peaceful witness? Are you prepared to help protect vulnerable facilities whose workers and volunteers are providing life-affirming care? Are you prepared to organize carpools and vanpools and busloads of pro-life allies to public hearings? Are you prepared to “speak life” in season and out of season, in a manner worthy of the goal? Are you ready to financially and spiritually support allies whose nonviolent defense of life leads to job loss or worse?

These are personal decisions, but they’re best made with a supportive well-grounded group. I think churches are uniquely positioned to teach and support nonviolent public action. If they won’t do the job, let our secular pro-life neighbors lead.

A culture of death won’t be overturned by people being nice. It won’t even be overturned by a Court, although a Court can make helpful decisions. Only love can prevail – love that’s sometimes disruptive, always sacrificial to some degree, always risky, often shown in little day-to-day things, courageous even when my knees are shaking.

Nonviolence is the fruit of love like that. First things first.

I’m grateful for the Dobbs decision, even with its limitations. Now let’s get moving. See you at the State House.

SCOTUS and the leaked draft: a 28-3 moment for the pro-life movement

Someone associated with the Supreme Court of the United States – a clerk, I’d wager – has slipped a reporter a copy of a draft opinion by Justice Alito in the Dobbs case, in which Alito bids Roe v. Wade goodbye. Activists who should know better are jumping for virtual joy.

Let’s get a grip. The draft is just that: a draft, not a final opinion. Nothing has been overturned.

Why leak the draft? Because for anyone who supports Roe v. Wade, this might seem like a time for desperate measures. Leaking the draft will put enormous pressure on the Justices who have reportedly indicated support for the draft. There is still time to flip a vote or two.

Why do I call this a 28-3 moment? A few years back, the score in the third quarter of the Super Bowl was 28-3. The Falcons were spanking the Patriots. The fourth quarter was going to be a mere formality. Except…the Pats clawed back, and won the game 34-28. (My husband gets the credit for reminding me of this.)

With the release of the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion, the pro-life movement looks like that team with the 25-point lead. Premature celebration is not a good idea.

Until at least five Justices formally sign on to something together, Dobbs is up in the air. The Court could go either way, meaning it might or might not overturn Roe. I suspect the three Justices who will feel the most heat are Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. The public uproar over the leaked draft hints at the private pressures they must be feeling today.

And if somehow Dobbs overturns Roe, the figurative 25-point lead could be temporary.

Even if it does overturn Roe by returning abortion policy to state legislatures, there is no sign that the Court will use the Dobbs case to assert and defend the fundamental right to life of each human being. Instead, at best, the Court seems poised to tell us that we are free to argue for that right one state at a time.

That’s a far cry from the truth once held to be self-evident. Created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…among these are life….

If you think the battles in Concord over life-issue legislation will come to an end post-Dobbs, think again. The state constitution will be up for grabs.

The medical professionals involved in abortion will work harder than ever to persuade women and policymakers that they, the abortion providers, are the compassionate ones.

The political battles, grim as they’ll continue to be, will be child’s play compared to the overwhelming need to expand the network of personal and social supports that a woman or girl needs when her pregnancy is a challenge.

This is a moment for rededication to relentless, peaceful action in defense of life. Our service to each other, in words and actions and prayers, public and private, must lead us where the Court still seems unwilling to go.

If Justice Alito’s draft eventually becomes the Court’s decision, I’ll take time to cheer. Then I’ll get back to work alongside people with hearts wiser and more courageous than mine, knowing that the Court has left us with a lot of brokenness to mend.

Post header photo by Ellen Kolb.