Governor Sununu gets one right

I take Governor Chris Sununu to task now and again, and he seems determined to keep giving me ample material. When he gets something right, I ought to give him a nod.

Without ceremony, he recently signed a pile of more than fifty bills. Somewhere in that pile was HB 576, expanding eligibility for access to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s victims’ compensation fund. Now, survivors of juvenile sex trafficking will be allowed an extended period of time to make a claim on the fund.

I wrote recently about Darlene Pawlik’s testimony in favor of the bill. A survivor herself, she urged legislators to get behind the measure. “Having access to the victims compensation fund could be more than just a way for a young person to have expenses paid for….It is the fact that people cared enough to set up such a fund which really makes a difference.”

The bill was held over from the 2021 legislative session. The six sponsors, led by Rep. Linda Massimilla (D-Littleton), had to keep this one on their colleague’s radar in the middle of 2022’s new crush of bills. Persistence paid off.

The final legislative report on HB 576 was written by Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry): “This bill will amend the provisions of the Victims’ Compensation Fund by permitting claims for victims of human trafficking to be filed at anytime and eliminating the consideration of contributory negligence in claims based on sexual abuse or human trafficking. The passage of this bill will recognize the long-term victimization and ramifications that occur as a result of this type of abuse, giving victims the time they need to come to terms with their trauma without. deadline for claims looming over their recovery.”

Quick passage of HB 576 should have been a no-brainer, but sometimes the legislative process creaks a bit. Seeing this bill get over the finish line is immensely satisfying. I had the pleasure of playing a small role by working with the bill’s chief sponsor, with whom I may never again agree politically – but whose advocacy for trafficked kids comes straight from the heart.

Quiet voice, fierce champion

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

Back in 2016, I asked Darlene Pawlik what anyone could do to advance a culture of life in New Hampshire. “One is to either run [for office] or support another full spectrum pro-life person in their race to the House or Senate. The other is to be responsive to their individual calling within their sphere of influence to be kind, helpful, and honor all lives loudly.”

Darlene’s story has been told elsewhere. Conceived in violence herself and later pregnant through sexual assault, she has a keen appreciation for the lives at risk of being dismissed as “exceptions” when pro-life policy is up for a vote. Her concern for human dignity doesn’t stop there. Her testimony, delivered in her quiet voice, has helped legislators understand that human trafficking is a reality close to home – not just “out there” somewhere.

What’s she up to now?

She’s in a new season of her life, providing special care to loved ones, facing fewer microphones and interviews. She isn’t done making her views known, though. Recently, she asked me to read her written testimony to legislators considering a bill to improve juvenile trafficking victims’ access to the victims’ compensation fund administered by The New Hampshire Department of Justice.

Darlene wrote about the difference even modest compensation could make. “Having access to the victims compensation fund could be more than just a way for a young person to have expenses paid for….It is the fact that people cared enough to set up such a fund which really makes a difference. I was eighteen years old before I knew that people really cared for ‘throw-away’ kids like me. A few hundred dollars [from the compensation fund] may seem small, but it could make a huge difference in the life of a child victimized by traffickers.”

Her testimony evidently struck a chord. The bill has passed House and Senate, and I hope it will soon be on Governor Sununu’s desk.

Five years ago, I reported that she urged us to “honor all lives loudly.” She leads by example.

Woman at podium with sign saying Pray to End Abortion
Darlene Pawlik, speaking at 40 Days for Life rally (Manchester NH) in 2014. Ellen Kolb photo.

post header photo by Ellen Kolb

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.

Another writer’s view: “Anti-Trafficking Task Force in N.H.?”

Recommended reading: make your way over to Darlene Pawlik’s blog, The Darling Princess, for a critical look at an anti-human-trafficking task force in New Hampshire. Darlene is on target with her concerns about the “New Hampshire Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force Advisory Committee” and its recent hire, a woman not unsympathetic to decriminalizing sexual exploitation.

Darlene writes,

It was frustrating news to see that an outspoken advocate of decriminalizing prostitution entirely, including buyers and pimps, would be taking the lead for the NH anti-trafficking task force. Her smooth talk of decriminalizing the sex trade to ensure safety for sex workers shields the most contemptible practice of human slavery. Her motives may be well-meaning, but she is terribly misinformed.

…Decriminalizing pimping and the sex trade would tie the hands of investigators. The buyers and the sellers would be able to continue their devastating business, while victims would have no clear way out. Sex trafficking is not an event, but a process and the results of that process. Sex trafficking cannot exist without the existence of prostitution.

Read the whole thing. I hope some legislators come across Darlene’s post, too.

A sobering day in the N.H. House

That was quite a ride the New Hampshire House gave us yesterday, swerving into a figurative ditch time and again while getting back on track just often enough to let me catch my breath. And all this after 5 p.m.! That’s how long it took for the Judiciary committee bills to come up for a vote. My long-suffering husband and son endured dinner with the livestream of the House session droning in the background.

And what was the upshot of all of it?

  • A buffer zone repeal bill passed very narrowly, and now goes to the Senate where the buffer zone law originated.
  • A “right to privacy” constitutional amendment got a majority of votes, but lost because it didn’t get the necessary three-fifths required for a constitutional amendment to advance. Similar amendments in other states have been used to block pro-life legislation, whether sponsors intended that or not.
  • Three bills to limit mid- and late-term abortions were killed. One of them was killed without debate. The debates on the other two made clear that while none of them will come out and say so, abortion supporters DO want to overturn Roe, in a manner quite different from what one might expect. Read on for more about this.
  • Another no-debate quickie: a proposal to treat abortion facilities like ambulatory care facilities was killed.
  • A proposal to keep all state funds, personnel and facilities away from abortion providers was killed.
  • A bill to criminalize the sexual trafficking of minors passed.

I will link to the roll calls in a later post. You can find them yourself at the legislative web site. Remember that “yes” isn’t necessarily a pro-life vote; if the motion is ITL (inexpedient to legislate), a “yes” vote is a vote to kill the bill. Hats off to the legislators who made sure roll calls took place, despite any annoyance the Speaker of the House might have been feeling.

This is a lengthy post. What can I say? The House inspires me.

Before I go any further, let me salute Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), whose speech in favor of a ban on eugenic abortion was the most moving and powerful of all the pro-life appeals in the House yesterday. I wish I’d recorded it. His strong appeal to his colleagues’ better natures, his plea that they reject discrimination against preborn children with genetic abnormalities, was calm and clear. It is a sharp jolt to know that the House voted inexpedient to legislate on the measure, 224-88, the most lopsided anti-life vote of the day.

A glimpse at a post-Roe legislative landscape

Opponents of limits on late-term abortion argued forcefully for their colleagues to ignore Roe v. Wade, without saying so directly, and possibly without realizing it.

Emerging from Justice Harry Blackmun’s twisted reasoning in Roe v. Wade was a feeble nod in the direction of the preborn child – “the potentiality of human life,” in the Justice’s words – that allowed even in 1973 the possibility of limiting late-term abortion.

“We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a nonresident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct…and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes ‘compelling.’…With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability….State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications.” (Roe v. Wade, 420 U.S. 113 (1973), pp. 162 et seq.)

What one abortion advocate after another said on the New Hampshire House floor yesterday was that a woman’s right to abort her child is paramount throughout pregnancy. No limits are tolerable. Forget this viability business. As Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene) said during the debate on HB 1623, the bill to bar abortions performed on the grounds of genetic problems, “This is about the autonomy of women.”

For years, pro-lifers have seen the overturning of Roe as a much-desired goal. In the 1970s, it seemed that ditching Roe would overturn legal abortion nationwide. Later, in the ’80s and ’90s, it became clear that overturning Roe would simply send abortion back to the states, where pro-life legislation was being passed piecemeal. That’s where we think we are now.

We’re wrong.

What if Roe is overturned not by a Court that acknowledges the right to life at every stage of development, but a Court that agrees with Rep. Phillips that this is all about women’s autonomy at every stage of pregnancy and that viability is therefore irrelevant?

Think it can’t happen? Repeat after me: Ginsburg. Sotomayor. Kagan. Breyer. The Court’s biggest question mark (which way will he jump next?), Kennedy.

That’s five, folks. With the right case, Roe will be gone, and in its wake will be not a return to the states, but an affirmation that abortion is purely what Rep. Phillips said it is, a matter of autonomy. Viability will be irrelevant under law nationwide and for generations.

The New Hampshire House gave us a look at that yesterday: no abortion regulation or restriction on the basis of fetal viability. No limit or oversight on eugenic abortion. No restriction on the basis of fetal pain.

Don’t blame it all on Democrats. It took some Republicans to kill these bills.

Buffer zone repeal bill approved, barely

The vote on buffer zone repeal was 160-152. It doesn’t get much closer. HB 1570 now goes to the Senate where a 12-12 tie is likely.

Rep. Gary Hopper had the presence of mind to call for reconsideration – in this case, a parliamentary move. He asked for reconsideration and asked his colleagues to vote No. Failure of a reconsideration motion keeps a bill from being brought up again. Smart move.

The ongoing mischaracterization of the buffer zone law is a running sore. Rep. Janet Wall (D-Durham): “This bill is not about behaviors but about allowing space…The Massachusetts law [that was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court] was very definite; the New Hampshire law allows flexibility…Wait to see what the federal court will do.”

The federal court has already done something: prevented enforcement of the law. The state’s determination to forestall the inevitable – that is, overturning the law, so obviously inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley decision – is one reason the New Hampshire case has stalled.

The “flexibility” of the New Hampshire law – even in committee, Rep. Wall was a huge fan of the “up-to-25-feet” provision in the original law – comes from the fact that the law delegates to abortion providers the right to determine the size, precise location, and enforcement hours of any “buffer zone.” In other words, a private entity is granted the right to determine when the public may occupy public space.

In addition, the reason the Massachusetts law was overturned had nothing whatsoever to do with “definite” things like the size of the zone. It was a First Amendment decision, pure and simple. I suspect Rep. Wall knows that; she’s an intelligent woman.

Rep. Frank Heffron (D-Exeter) continued the mischaracterization. The buffer zone law “exists to protect women from harassment and abuse.” Actually, anti-harassment laws exist for that purpose, as do laws against trespassing and disorderly conduct – none of which have needed to be used in recent years outside New Hampshire abortion facilities, if law enforcement records are accurate.

Rep. Heffron said the need for the buffer zone was expressed in the “findings” in the buffer zone law, including “fear and intimidation” experienced by women entering abortion facilities. He couldn’t refer to documented criminal charges against any recent peaceful pro-life witness in New Hampshire because there haven’t been any. He couldn’t explain how a violent assailant would be any less a threat to women entering a facility than to women praying outside it, or how a buffer zone law would be useful in such an instance.

Like Rep. Wall, he claimed that the New Hampshire law isn’t really like the old Massachusetts law. Tell it to the federal judge who issued an injunction against our law.

It took Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) to bring his colleagues back to the point. “This [buffer zone] law is intended strictly to restrict rights of citizens on public property. It seeks to restrict the right to speak.” His argument prevailed, all too narrowly. On to the Senate.

Rep. Groen is gavelled twice

The “buying, selling, and experimenting on unborn infants or bodily remains resulting from abortion” would have been banned by HB 1663. The House killed the bill on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion, 155-122.

Might’ve been instructive to have been running the Center for Medical Progress videos on the State House plaza during that vote, but never mind.

Rep. Linda Kenison (D-Concord) made the claim “there is no voluntary tissue donation in New Hampshire.” Really? Anywhere? That would be a relief of sorts. Documentation would be nice. “This is a strategy to restrict a woman’s access.” How? Would an abortion provider refuse to do a procedure on a woman who doesn’t want her child’s remains bought and sold? Now that would be a story.

The Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson), apparently had his gavel ready when Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) rose to speak in favor of HB 1663. Groen began to speak about the parallels between modern-day fetal tissue trafficking and the medical excesses of the Nazi regime. Down came the gavel with a sharp rap. “We’re not dealing with Naziism today.” After a pause, Groen resumed, mentioning Robert Jay Lifton’s book The Nazi Doctors (on my bookshelf nearby as I write this, as it happens). Gavelled again. Another pause. Rep. Groen resumed, leaving the Nazis out of it.

Some of the reps who had no qualms about killing the mid- and late-term abortion bans were apparently given pause by this bill. It was killed, but on a closer vote than I expected: inexpedient to legislate, 155-122.

Public funds for abortion counseling: yes, you’re paying

HB 1684 labored under the handicap of coming near the end of an eleven-hour session day in a roomful of legislators who just wanted to go home. The bill would have prohibited the use of public funds, employees, and facilities in assisting or performing abortion. It also would have prohibited public employees within the scope of their employment from counseling or encouraging a woman to get an abortion not necessary to save the woman’s life, and it would have required a second opinion before an abortion could be performed on a woman whose life was deemed to be in danger

Nope, said Rep. Charlene Takesian (R-Pelham), who spoke against the bill. She sounded particularly exercised that a state employee would be prohibited from telling (for example) a pregnant jail inmate about all her options. They’re under no such prohibition now, you see.

An ought-to-pass motion failed on a roll call vote, 131-146, and then “inexpedient to legislate” passed on a loud voice vote which over the live stream sounded mighty close.

Privacy amendment

Republican Reps. Neal Kurk of Weare and Claire Rouillard of Goffstown made strong pitches for CACR 22. Both of them rejected any suggestion that the measure was about abortion. Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) questioned Kurk closely on that point, mentioning the trouble that other states have had with privacy amendments and pro-life legislation. Kurk dismissed the concern out of hand, saying he had confidence in the good sense of New Hampshire courts.

Fortunately, that “good sense” won’t be tested on this measure, which attracted a majority ought-to-pass vote but not the three-fifths it required.

Human trafficking bill passes

I’ll close with good news: HB 1628 passed, making it a class B felony to pay to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18. Governor Hassan issued a statement following the vote: “In 2014, we passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen protections for human trafficking victims, and this measure builds on those efforts by establishing enhanced penalties for human trafficking of minors. I thank the House for passing this common-sense legislation, and I encourage the Senate to continue its efforts in the fight against this deplorable crime.”

For once, I agree with the Governor on what constitutes common-sense legislation.