Attack of the killer squirrels: abortion de-funding bill draws heated testimony

Visualize this: serious matters are at stake. A problem needs solving. Attention must be paid. Concentrate … focus …

Ooh, look! squirrel! The furry little diversion scatters concentration and focus to the point where one wonders what the problem was in the first place. There’s a squirrel. How can you not want to watch that entertaining little critter?

Rep. Warren Groen (photo from
Rep. Warren Groen (photo from

There were squirrels all over the room when a New Hampshire House committee considered HB 677, a bill to prevent taxpayer dollars from subsidizing abortion providers. Let taxpayers divest from a violent, life-ending industry. Let abortion providers adjust their business models so they can concentrate on patient care instead of marketing and lobbying. Separate out abortion from other services and stop the fiction that abortion is health care. Pro-choice all around: get an abortion if you want; provide them if you want; pay your taxes secure in the knowledge that you’re not paying for someone else’s abortion. Such were the goals of Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) and his co-sponsors.

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The public seating area was full at the hearing. Most in attendance were ordinary citizens without the lobbyists’ orange badges. Most were pro-life. All had taken time away from family and work obligations for this and four other life-issue hearings during the day. They signed in; committee members will know that the majority of people at the hearing opposed the bill.

Others were present as well: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s lobbyist, Jennifer Frizzell, who makes sure to add to her intro that she represents PP’s Action Fund (the pink t-shirt people). Representatives of the Feminist Health and Lovering Centers. A retired physician representing colleagues in opposition to the bill. State reps and a state senator, rushing in an out of the room to get back to their own committees’ work. Cornerstone (for which I used to lobby), representing thousands of people who want to get out of subsidizing abortion providers.

Sponsor Groen cited the Texas model: agencies providing abortion along with other services could separate their abortion segment altogether. Separate facilities, staff, budgets. A separate business and legal entity, truly freestanding. That way, tax money going to family planning would definitely not go to abortion providers. Guess what some Texas abortion providers (notably Planned Parenthood) did in response? They closed facilities altogether rather than separate out abortion – and then they accused the state of denying women access to care.

That was a business decision, not a medical one, and it certainly wasn’t compelled by any politician. Texas has not caved in, at least not yet.

Turns out that any mention of Texas in front of New Hampshire abortion promoters is a bad move. Planned Parenthood released squirrel #1, which roughly translated sounded like Ewww, we’re not Texas! “Texas probably ranks 49th or 50th in teen reproductive health,” whatever that means, according to Frizzell. She went on to say, “We [PP] are the best at what we do. We’re proud of our brand.”

Before wrapping up, she set squirrel #2 loose. “Six out of ten women coming to Planned Parenthood consider Planned Parenthood their primary care provider.” Abortion and primary care, one and inseparable, now and forever. She managed to get through her testimony without acknowledging that the bill was about respect for the choices of her New Hampshire neighbors who do not want their money subsidizing abortions.

Any public funds – family planning funds, for instance, which are supposedly not used for most elective abortions – received by an abortion provider who also provides health care helps to subsidize abortion. Those funds keep the lights on, pay salaries of support staff, and let the organization pay lobbyists to try to keep abortion unregulated.

This fact was slyly sidestepped by at least two committee members, who asked for documentation that public funds were indeed being diverted for abortions. With providers seamlessly weaving abortion into genuine health care, no such internal documentation is likely to exist. That’s what those committee members wanted on record. They can now say that no one showed them specific dollars being used to pay for specific abortions. They don’t want to hear about how public money frees up internal funds with which a provider can do abortions and lobby against pro-life taxpayers.

In came Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), a reliable ally to abortion advocates. He can always be counted on to get worked up when pro-lifers try to assert their rights, and he did not disappoint. He represents the district including PP’s Manchester facility, so he focused his remarks on PP. “This legislation is misguided and harmful to women.” He pounded his fist on the table and ratcheted up the volume a notch. “My daughter uses Planned Parenthood for her health care.” More pounding. The committee chairman looked on placidly. “These services” – the non-abortion work done at PP – “are absolutely essential if you’re going to have quality of life. It is totally unreasonable to expect any accounting change. We are not Texas!” More pounding; louder voice. “I represent the poorest district in Manchester. The POOREST!”

It was left to the Senator to send squirrel number 3 scurrying through the room. “Cancer screenings!” Abortion and cancer screenings are apparently inseparable, politically if not medically. Well-played. Again, the taxpayers – including the poorest – who simply want to divest from an unregulated industry that kills children did not rate a mention.

Dr. Barry Smith, speaking for an industry group of physicians, was content to speak in a modest tone after the Senator’s appearance. “This is a bad bill. It runs the risk of hurting services.” Services, again. He didn’t release any squirrels on his own; he merely petted the ones already on the loose.

Rep. Kathleen Souza (photo courtesy
Rep. Kathleen Souza (photo courtesy

The pro-life supporters of the bill simply didn’t bring drama to the table. One can’t fault them for that. The single strongest pro-life statement of the hearing came from soft-spoken Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester): “This bill is good for New Hampshire. Money that’s now being used for killing children could be used to save lives.”

Yes, money that’s now being used for killing children: that’s what those grants to abortion providers mean, even if the grants themselves are for irreproachably genuine health care. The Texas abortion providers have demonstrated to the nation exactly where the genuine health care ranks in their estimation: somewhere below abortions. They closed facilities altogether rather than change their abortion-centered service model.

Health care, yes. Abortion, no. One fosters life; the other ends it. Health care and abortion are not the same thing. Would someone pounding the table to make that point have received the same indulgence as the Senator?

The New Hampshire House committee will vote on the bill in a week or so, with the Senator’s table-pounding appearance still ringing in their ears.

“We’re not Texas” – “cancer screenings” – “risk of hurting services” – killer squirrels, every one.

NH stats study committee recommends “future legislation”

A legislative committee has agreed that New Hampshire needs a law requiring collection of abortion statistics. Now comes the fun part: passing one.

The interim study committee examining House Bill 1502 from the 2014 New Hampshire House session issued its brief report on November 14. Representative Laurie Harding (D-Lebanon) wrote on behalf of her colleagues on the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee:

The committee voted in favor of future legislation that is focused on meaningful, confidential collection of abortion statistics only for the purpose of public health analysis and intervention. The data would be summarized and made public in an aggregated form. The committee supported the motion to recommend future legislation only if the data collection is guaranteed to protect the anonymity of the provider and patient and the appropriate resources are available. (Vote: 16-1)

Interim study reports are non-binding but influential on future legislative action. The next time an abortion statistics bill comes up, this recommendation will be used somewhere along the line as a point of reference, particularly since many of the people on the study committee were re-elected a couple of weeks ago.

As it happens, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester) has filed her intent to introduce a statistics bill in the session beginning in January. Souza is strongly pro-life. You can bet she’s going to do her best to keep this needed legislation from going off the rails.

Off the rails? Yes, it could happen.

I attended several of the study sessions on HB 1502. The consensus of the committee, dominated by abortion defenders, was that statistics were a good idea to the extent that they might help identify populations currently underserved by contraception providers. (No wonder PPNNE stopped objecting to the bill. From their standpoint, a stats law would be market research at the state’s expense.) One needn’t track post-abortion morbidity and mortality to get at that information. Another point of consensus was explicitly written into the interim study report: abortion providers should remain anonymous. So much for women’s health.

It’s true that any statistics law will be a step in the right direction. New Hampshire public health authorities have no official idea how many abortion providers work in New Hampshire, or how many women and girls get abortions, or how many of those abortions are late-term surgical or early-term chemical. Any effort to fill in those gaps will be a public health boon. Let’s take it further and pass a law that tracks how women fare after abortions, at least to the extent that a provider who consistently had awful outcomes could be identified and stopped.

The text of Souza’s bill is at least a month away from being ready for release. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by the colleagues who have just said there oughta be a law.


LSR update: looks like reps will focus on one abortion bill

My earlier report on legislative service requests (potential bills) for next year in New Hampshire featured several LSRs regarding abortion. Recently, several of those LSRs were withdrawn by their sponsors. Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester) has the remaining LSR, “relative to licensing of outpatient abortion facilities.”

I’ve spoken to Rep. Souza about her proposed bill, and I’ll interview her in full once the language of the bill is determined. This is familiar territory for her. Her decades-long tenacity played an important part in the fetal homicide bill in 2012, which came within a handful of votes of passage, over then-Gov. John Lynch’s veto.

Sen Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) has an LSR regarding human trafficking. I wish there were no need for this, but there is. I’m indebted to New Hampshire activist Kelly Roy; my conversations with her made me realize that people are trafficked even here in the Granite State.

Hundreds March for Life in Concord

Not even forty years of Roe v. Wade can discourage or silence us.

Pro-life New Hampshire was out in force today in Concord, with people of all ages coming together to celebrate life and renew their commitment to moving past Roe. My thanks go to the New Hampshire Right to Life Committee for organizing and sponsoring the day’s events. By my count, I was one of 350 people filling the sidewalk on Main Street between the State House and St. John’s church. Many of my longtime friends and colleagues were there. They won’t mind when I say that as much as I love seeing them, I was overjoyed by all the new faces at the march. The pro-life movement is growing all the time. So many young people!  How can I not be full of hope?

Usually, the march goes south on Main Street, passing in front of the Feminist Health Center. This year, we were diverted around the block, for reasons which escape me. A couple of dozen abortion advocates stood near the FHC anyway with their signs and their chants. They had to chant for quite awhile. It took a half hour for the line of pro-lifers to pass a given point, since as always we obeyed the terms of the city permit: stay out of the street, and don’t block the sidewalk. You want 350 people walking two abreast? Works for me. Our message stays out there that much longer.

Who came? Young parents pushing kids in strollers. People in wheelchairs. State reps. Clergy and nuns (and why not, since the Reproductive Rights Caucus leader is so proud to be Catholic?). Church groups. High school & college students.  This is just a hint of what I know I’ll see in Washington in a few days. Enormously encouraging, all of it.