Born-alive bill: party-line vote in Senate committee

The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 on Tuesday to recommend “ought to pass” on a HB 233, a bill to establish a committee to study the right of born-alive children to “appropriate and reasonable medical treatment.” The full Senate is expected to vote on the recommendation in January.

The bill being recommended to the full Senate looks a lot different from the bill as passed by the House early this year.

The vote was along party lines, with Republicans Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), Harold French (R-Franklin), and William Gannon (R-Sandown) voting in favor. Democrats Rebecca Whitley of Concord and Thomas Sherman of Rye voted no.

Re-referred: how the bill was carried over from earlier this year

You may recall that HB 233 in its original version prompted a walkout by pro-abortion House members last winter. (See my report “House passes two life-issue bills” from February 24.) The walkout followed the failure of motions to kill and to table the born-alive legislation. A majority of the reps who stayed at their posts eventually voted Ought to Pass on the bill.

The original version of HB 233, sponsored by Reps. Jordan Ulery (R-Hudson) and Walt Stapleton (R-Claremont), passed the House without amendment. Then it went to the Senate, which decided to “re-refer” the bill to the Senate Judiciary committee. This is the Senate’s version of what the House calls “retaining” a bill: holding it over for more consideration in committee, delaying a vote by the full chamber until the following year.

And so here we are: HB 233 went back to the Senate committee, which cast its vote this week to recommend that the full Senate vote next month to pass an amended version of the bill.

Amending the bill

What the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to do on December 14 was recommend amending the bill, changing it from born-alive protection to studying born-alive protection. That amendment, #2292s, was co-sponsored by Sens. Carson and Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead). It failed to attract support from either of the Democrats on the committee.

Likewise, an amendment by Sen. Birdsell (1023s) to clarify HB 233’s language resulted in another 3-2 committee split, although that amendment was rendered moot by the later vote to change the bill to a study committee.

Sen. Birdsell’s amendment was actually prepared back in March for the Senate to consider. At the time, HB 233’s opponents decried the bill as an attempt to force doctors to tear terminally-ill newborns away from their parents in order to administer futile treatment. The Birdsell amendment was an attempt to allay those fears. Today, committee Democrats voted against the Birdsell amendment and then spoke as if it had never been proposed in the first place.

“Inflammatory…insulting to our medical providers”

Before this week’s committee vote, Senators Whitley and Sherman spoke at some length about their opposition to the bill. Their arguments were along these lines: there’s no such thing as a child born alive after attempted abortion; claiming otherwise is an insult to medical personnel; and the bill whether intentionally or not would force doctors to harm grieving families by imposing extraordinary medical interventions on newborns born in a condition likely to result in neonatal death.

The latter argument is likely to be dragged out yet again before the Senate vote in January, despite the Birdsell amendment that made clear the penalties in the original bill would have applied only to health care providers who withhold treatment from a born-alive child with the intention of causing or hastening the child’s death.

That leaves the no-such-thing argument. When Senator Gannon asked Senator Sherman about children surviving attempted abortion, Sherman said “that’s not the way abortion happens….That’s not something that happens in the state.” Senator Whitley added that claims that abortion survivors exist is “a false narrative,” “inflammatory,” and “insulting to our medical providers….In an abortion, a baby is not born alive.”

Noting that the hearing earlier this year on HB 233 included medical professionals objecting to the bill, Whitley expressed concern that supporting born-alive legislation would send a message to providers “that we don’t believe them.”

I can’t help but think that our state’s failure to collect and report on abortion statistics is a factor here. As long as there are no reported abortion complications, including reports on any children born alive after attempted abortion, abortion-friendly legislators can aver that such children are imaginary.

Ignoring abortion survivors

I don’t know if abortion survivors could persuade any skeptical legislators. Probably not, unless the survivor were a New Hampshire resident, and even then I expect the survivor’s claims would be met with resistance.

Melissa Ohden, a survivor herself, is dedicated to sharing her story and to giving other survivors a voice. She and other survivors have testified before Congress and state legislatures. They are advocates for legislation that protects children born alive after attempted abortion. Those advocates can’t be everywhere. I wish they could. Nothing short of a personal encounter with a survivor will pry some legislators away from the “false narrative” claim to which they cling.

Members of the Abortion Survivors Network do what they can. Some have put their stories on video, where anyone – even a legislator – can view them.

I love how Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor living with cerebral palsy, put it to a Congressional committee: “if abortion is about women’s rights, what were mine?”

Senate to vote on “study”

The amended version of HB 233 to be voted on in the Senate sets up a legislative committee to “study the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” There are three specified duties for such a committee, according to the amendment: consider any potential conflicts with ethics and end of life care standards; consider any potential conflicts with the Neonatal Resuscitation Program, and examine particular state laws (RSA 329:43 through 329:50) for potential conflicts.

There’s no specified duty to ensure that abortion survivors be protected.

Maybe that’s what half a loaf looks like this year: better than nothing. I believe legislators already know how they’ll vote on born-alive bills, regardless of amendments or language or attempts to find common ground. Their press releases and op-eds are probably already drafted. The only question is whether someone will buck his or her party when the bill comes to the floor.

Abortion Insurance Mandate On Its Way to Governor Sununu

The New Hampshire House voted today to concur with the Senate’s abortion insurance mandate. Following an administrative procedure known as enrollment, HB 685 will go to Governor Chris Sununu. He has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the measure.

The Governor’s office can be reached at (603) 271-2121. I’ll be asking for a veto of HB 685.

The House vote on concurrence was 196-132. A “Yea” supported advancing the insurance mandate, despite the fact that the House had held no hearing on the bill as amended.

As previously reported, HB 685 was amended by the Senate to remove its original language on a different topic, replacing it with an abortion insurance mandate. The House violated its own rules (#45-b, if anyone asks) by taking up the amended bill at all, never mind concurring with the Senate’s changes.

If HB 685 becomes law, you will be helping to subsidize abortion if you are an insurance provider covered by the bill, if you are a business owner who offers health insurance as a benefit to employees under a policy covered by this bill, and if you are an individual paying premiums for a policy covered by this bill.

Conscience rights were dismissed by the House and Senate majorities when they voted on HB 685 as amended. Will the Governor take the same approach?

Earlier posts on HB 685: Second Abortion Insurance Mandate Bill Created in Rushed Process, House to Vote on Abortion Insurance Mandate

House to Vote On Abortion Insurance Mandate June 30

The New Hampshire House will vote on June 30 whether to agree with a Senate amendment creating an abortion insurance mandate bill. The House will vote to concur (agree) or non-concur (disagree) with the Senate’s changes to HB 685. The House intends to wrap up its session on the 30th, coming back only in September to consider vetoed bills.

If a majority votes to non-concur, HB 685 and the abortion insurance mandate will die. If a majority votes instead to concur, the bill will go to Governor Chris Sununu. The Governor has made no public statement on whether he’ll veto HB 685.

Reaching House members

To reach House members before Tuesday, June 30, look up your district and representatives’ names at the General Court website. Note that you may live in two districts, one for your town and another “floterial” district covering several towns. In that case, contact representatives from both districts.

To kill HB 685, the message is please vote to non-concur with HB 685.

Brief and courteous messages are always the way to go.

Reaching out to the Governor will be the next step if the House concurs. If you want to get a jump on that, call the Governor’s office at (603) 271-2121 and ask for a veto if HB 685 gets to his desk. Thumbs up to the staff at the Governor’s office, which fields all such calls and makes sure the Governor hears about them.

The sneaky swap: senate’s non-germane amendment

As previously reported, HB 685 bears no relationship to the original bill passed by the House. As introduced, HB 685 was about insurance for ambulance services. That’s what the House passed. The Senate, where a majority is more interested in abortion than in ambulance services, amended the bill by stripping out the original language altogether and replacing it with an abortion insurance mandate. The vote on the non-germane amendment – meaning the amendment has no relationship to the topic of the original bill – was 14-10 along party lines.

To add insult to injury, the Senate majority accepted a new name for the bill: “The Reproductive Health Parity Act of 2020.”

Even a House member who’s a fan of abortion mandates could take offense at the Senate’s casual dismissal of a House bill. Procedure alone is reason enough to torpedo HB 685 as amended.

There’s more: there was NO House hearing on the material in HB 685 as amended. No House member should be supporting that kind of sneaky process.

If this procedural nonsense succeeds, it will set a precedent for future legislatures. Its use won’t be limited to one party or the other. No House member should be willing to open that door. No representative voting to concur with HB 685 as amended will have any business objecting if his or her own pet bill falls prey to shenanigans in the future.

Because the House intends to finish this session’s regular business on June 30, without forming any conference committees, a vote to non-concur will kill HB 685.

I’ll add a link to the roll call after the House vote.

Second Abortion Insurance Mandate Bill Created in Rushed Process

Full sessions of the New Hampshire legislature are back in business after a 12- week recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why not adjourn until next January? Because apparently there are some bills the current leadership considers important enough to rush along, short-circuiting ordinary procedure. Case in point: mandating that some health insurance policies cover abortion.

inventing a bill, or a short course in non-germane amendments

SB 486, misleadingly entitled “relative to insurance plans that cover maternity benefits,” was passed by the Senate last March in the last session before the COVID recess. The House has not taken up the bill due to the recess, and thanks to a procedural vote on June 11, the House is not likely to take it up now. (More about that later.)

So abortion advocates in the Senate Commerce Committee did something creative: they took an existing House bill on another subject (HB 685, insurance coverage for ambulance services) and amended it to remove the original subject matter entirely and replace it with the text of SB 486. The full Senate is likely to vote on the new-and-not-improved HB 685 on Tuesday, June 16.

But when was the hearing, you ask? The hearing AND the Senate Commerce Committee vote on HB 685 as amended was on June 11, via videoconference and YouTube. If you blinked, you missed it.

“parity” = “you gotta pay”

A quick review, from this blog’s coverage of SB 486 last March, keeping in mind that HB 685 as amended by the Commerce committee now contains the same mandate as SB 486:

SB 486 will force some health insurance plans that cover maternity benefits to cover abortion as well. Committee recommendation is “ought to pass,” party-line vote. SB 486 deserves an “inexpedient to legislate” vote. [Editor’s note: the Senate later passed the bill along party lines, Democrats in the majority.] Testimony at the hearing affirmed that most health insurance policies written in New Hampshire already cover abortion. That’s not enough for abortion advocates. They say “parity” demands that abortion coverage be mandated, since abortion is health care, too. Only it isn’t. For another view, you can read Planned Parenthood’s glowing endorsement of the bill.

leavenfortheloaf.com, March 9, 2020

If SB 486 or HB 685 (as amended) were to become law, you would be helping to subsidize abortion if you are an insurance provider covered by the bill, if you are a business owner who offers health insurance as a benefit to employees under a policy covered by this bill, and if you are an individual paying premiums for a policy covered by this bill.

Conscience rights? Not persuasive to the current Commerce Committee majority.

Remember the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare? That was just the preview. Now abortion advocates at the state level want to mandate abortion coverage in health insurance policies. While these bills purport to apply to only certain policies, the fact is that they open the door to treating abortion as a form of health care that must be covered by all health insurance policies that offer maternity coverage.

timing is everything

If the Senate passes the amended HB 685 at its June 16 session, as seems likely, then it will go to the House – not for a hearing, mind you. HB 685 already had a House hearing before crossover in March, on its original subject. Instead, the House would merely have to vote to concur with the Senate changes in order to send HB 685 to the Governor for his signature.

The House’s last session is June 30, so the clock is ticking.

what the…or why are there two bills?

Supporters of the original abortion mandate bill correctly surmised that the House would not vote to extend its calendar past June 30. (Basically, both chambers are trying to catch up on three missed months in three weeks.) SB 486’s supporters were afraid there wouldn’t be time for the House to go through its usual procedure with bills received from the Senate, including a public hearing.

So to guarantee that an abortion insurance mandate would get a House vote, the Senate Commerce Committee took the path of completely re-writing a bill that had already gone through the House: HB 685. If the Senate votes to pass the amended bill, all the House will have to do is vote to agree or disagree with the amendment. The current pro-abortion majority in Senate and House make passage a near-certainty.

what you can do

Civics lesson, free of charge: Never assume a legislator knows what you want, and never let a legislator say you weren’t heard from.

If you oppose HB 685 as amended by the Senate Commerce Committee, contact your senator and say so, before June 16.

Would Governor Sununu sign an abortion insurance mandate if it came to his desk? Stay tuned.

Pushing back: testimonies against assisted suicide, part 2

Here are some excerpts from press conference and testimony against New Hampshire’s assisted suicide bill, HB 1659. Find part 1 at this link.

Gary Cahoon, owner of assisted living facility

…The current state of palliative care is such that people need not die in pain. None of our residents have ever expressed a regret that they had not had the opportunity to kill themselves at an earlier time.

Aside from death, another unpleasant aspect of life that we have had to deal with is family members who exploit, abuse or neglect a vulnerable person. We have taken in frail elderly people from truly horrific households.  Financial exploitation, however, is much more common than outright abuse. I think for example of the nephew who got his aunt to grant him a financial power of attorney in exchange for a candy bar. I have no doubt that some of the abusers I have dealt with would have readily attempted to persuade or coerce their family member into suicide if they benefited as a result. We should not give the potential abuser one more tool to exploit the vulnerable.

As healthcare providers, my wife and I feel that it is our duty and our mission to help our residents achieve the best possible quality of life and not to help them end their lives. The door to assisted suicide is one which, we believe, should never be opened.

(Mr. Cahoon and his wife own Friendship Manor, an assisted living home in New Ipswich.)

Gary Cahoon of Friendship Manor in New Ipswich, speaking in opposition to HB 1659.

Nancy Elliott, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA

In her testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Nancy Elliott – former state representative from Merrimack, who once served on the committee herself – took on the references within HB 1659-FN to “mental anguish” and “embarrassing indignities.”

This sounds like a disability. Before I lost my husband, that was the description of him. It is cruel for the state to say that someone like my husband should not want to live and be pushed toward suicide.

Steven Wade, Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire

As you may be aware, suicide has reached epidemic proportions in our state, [with] the number of suicides nearly doubling in NH in the last 10 years. NH DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] and suicide prevention organizations are working hard to implement a new program of “Zero Suicides” in New Hampshire, along with renewed focus on “Help Seeking”.

HB 1659 is an affront and a contradiction to these suicide prevention efforts and to all the hard work by so many suicide prevention advocates and volunteers in NH.

We will argue that instead of legalizing assisted suicide as medical care, we should be working to greatly expand funding and access to palliative and mental care for those most-at risk for suicide in our state – persons living with life-long disability, veterans living with TBI and PTSD,
at-risk teens, first responders, and elders vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. This also includes many of NH’s low income citizens and persons on Medicaid and under managed care, who do not have access to needed palliative and mental health care.

Steven Wade is executive director of the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire, and facilitator for the Coalition Against State-Approved Suicide.