Buffer zone repeal, 2022: House to vote week of March 15

Amidst an extremely long agenda on the New Hampshire House calendar for next week, buffer zone repeal – HB 1625 – awaits action. The Judiciary Committee on a 12-9 vote is recommending “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL). The full House in its multi-day session will vote on the bill sometime between Tuesday, March 15, and Thursday, March 17.

Identify your representatives by checking the House roster by town. Click on each name to find contact information. As them to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s ITL recommendation on HB 1625, and instead support a motion of “ought to pass” (OTP). You may find that you belong to two districts, and if that’s the case, contact all the representatives listed. If you send email, be sure your subject line is clear, since that may be the only thing a rep has time to read: “From a constituent: please vote OTP on HB 1625.”

Why HB 1625 deserves special attention

There will be other life-issue bills on the House calendar, and I will address those in a separate post. Why single out buffer zone repeal for special attention? Certainly the First Amendment implications are important, but there’s another reason. The committee’s majority report recommending ITL contains two falsehoods. Any representative supporting the ITL recommendation will be embracing them.

I cast no aspersions on Rep. Mark Paige (D-Exeter), who wrote the majority report. He may have depended on unreliable sources. All the more reason to clear up the false information.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law threatens the right of peaceful pro-life witnesses to be present on public property outside abortion facilities. The law has never been enforced since its 2014 passage. Nevertheless, it remains a stain on our statutes.

No, the buffer zone law was NOT drafted to follow Supreme Court guidelines

From the Judiciary Committee’s minority report, which is printed in the House calendar and may be the only thing most reps read about HB 1625: “…the drafters of our current buffer law carefully crafted it after the [U.S. Supreme] Court decided McCullen, thus with particular knowledge of the constitutional limits of buffer zone laws.”

That is four-alarm nonsense.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law on which New Hampshire’s law was based, was handed down on June 26, 2014. (You can read the case itself and my commentary written at the time the case was decided.)

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was introduced on December 17, 2013, passed by the House in February 2014, passed by the Senate in May 2014, and signed by then-Governor Maggie Hassan on June 10, 2014. That’s 16 days before the Supreme Court handed down McCullen.

The governor and every legislator knew perfectly well that the McCullen case was pending in the Court. They enabled the New Hampshire buffer zone law anyway.

So much for being “carefully crafted” after McCullen.

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Preview and review: upcoming House hearing and votes, results of earlier hearings

On Tuesday, February 15, a House committee will hold a hearing on a medical conscience bill. Details below. What you can do: sign in online in support of the bill. Healthcare professionals, take note.

On Wednesday or Thursday, February 16 or 17, the full House will vote on a bill that was intended to gut New Hampshire’s Fetal Life Protection Act – and the House has the opportunity to adopt an amendment which would actually protect FLPA. Details below, along with a note on what will happen the same day to the abortion statistics bill. What you can do: contact your state representatives.

On Friday, February 18, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on the six life-issue bills on which they held hearings recently. Details (you guessed it) below. What you can do: contact the committee. You might be dismayed at the way the online sign-ups went on these bills. No need for dismay: let this be a spur to action.

Finally, to update an earlier post, you’ll read how the Senate voted on a pair of life-issue bills.

Continue reading “Preview and review: upcoming House hearing and votes, results of earlier hearings”

Abortion providers are once again disappointed in the Executive Council

Today, the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 to reject family planning contracts with three abortion providers, while approving on 3-2 votes similar contracts with agencies that do not perform abortions. The Council gave thumbs down to the same abortion providers in September, on the same contract proposals.

The 4-1 vote was along party lines, with Republicans Joe Kenney, Janet Stevens, Ted Gatsas, and Dave Wheeler prevailing over Democrat Cinde Warmington. On the 3-2 votes, Councilors Gatsas and Wheeler were in the minority, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader.

A majority of the councilors saying no to the abortion providers aren’t doing so because they have a problem with family planning programs. Their issue is with the abortion side of the providers’ business. They know that giving x number of dollars to an agency for a specific task frees up other agency resources for other tasks.

“Shameful,” says the VP of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We are outraged,” tweeted the NH Women’s Forum.

The Council’s vote appears to be consistent with state law, as passed in the trailer bill to the state budget that went into effect on July 1 (HB 2, chaptered final version, section 91:36; see subsections 3 and 4):

Any contract awarded to a family planning project shall contain all of the following provisions: (1) that no state funds shall be used to subsidize abortions, either directly or indirectly; (2) that the family planning project will permit the commissioner of the department of health and human services, or his or her designated agent or delegate, to inspect the financial records of the family planning project to monitor compliance with this section; (3) that at the end of each fiscal year, the commissioner shall certify, in writing, to the governor and council that he or she, personally or through a designated agent or delegate, has reviewed the expenditure of funds awarded to a family planning project under this section and that no state funds awarded by the department have been used to provide abortion services; and (4) that if the commissioner fails to make such certification or if the governor and executive council, based on evidence presented by the commissioner in his or her certification, find that state funds awarded by the department have been used to provide abortion services, the grant recipient shall either: (a) be found to be in breach of the terms of such contract, grant, or award of funds and forfeit all right to receive further funding; or (b) suspend all operations until such time as the state funded family planning project is physically and financially separate from any reproductive health facility, as defined in RSA 132:37.

Chapter 91:36, HB 2 as enacted by New Hampshire Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu, 2021

The PPNNE spokesperson has averred that there are no unanswered questions about how PP spends taxpayer money.

According to Kevin Landrigan’s Union Leader report, Governor Sununu expressed hope that the Council will reconsider once the statutorily-required audits are complete. Landrigan quoted the governor as saying “The fight isn’t over yet,” to which Councilor Kenney reportedly replied, “I believe it is.”

In advance of the vote, the Public Policy office of the Diocese of Manchester in an email had urged readers to contact their Councilors to urge a “no” vote on contracts with abortion providers PPNNE, the Equality Center in Concord, and Lovering Health. “Keeping state funds separate from abortion activities is an important public policy-– a policy that is especially appropriate in the context presented by these particular contracts, because abortion unquestionably should not be thought of simply as an element of family planning.” 

New Hampshire Right to Life also issued a public heads-up before today’s Council meeting. “Soon after the Executive Council members decided to uphold the law in mid-September, the NH abortion providers announced increased prices for family planning services on their poorest clientele…. The abortionists thought they could bully NH taxpayers into subsidizing their abortions by increasing prices for other services….As a public service, NHRTL responded to the price increases at abortion facilities for their low-income clients by publishing an interactive map with a list of health care centers and other helpful organizations for women and their families.”

If you’d like to send your councilor a polite message about the votes, here’s contact information.

Pro-life policies in state budget: victory with an expiration date (UPDATED)

Update, 7/8/21: I am indebted to an attorney well-versed in pro-life policy who called me out on claiming that the language cited below would expire in two years. Instead, I’ll try for more clarity: it’s possible that it might not survive the next budget process. More about that below, in boldface.

For the first time since 1997, New Hampshire has a law limiting late-term abortion. Well, we’ll have one as of next January 1, and it may only be good – I said “may” – until the expiration of the budget on June 30, 2023. Still, after nearly a quarter-century, the Granite State will move ahead past the era of unregulated abortion.

I wondered if flipping the House and Senate would make a difference. Turns out it did.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to process this news. It’s stunning to me, as someone who was an activist even before 1997, to see this victory. Our pro-choice governor kept the word he gave in 2016. Pro-life reps worked to get pro-life language into the budget, after the Senate stalled a freestanding bill that would have done the job. Some pro-life budget conferees – who were Republicans, as it happens – wouldn’t let the provision be tossed out during budget negotiations.

We still don’t have abortion statistics, or a requirement that only medical personnel provide abortions (remember that the next time someone tells you abortion is a private “medical” decision), or conscience protection for health care workers who choose not to participate in the direct intentional termination of human life.

We can bet that the pro-life provisions in this budget will be up for debate and rejection in two years when the next budget is crafted. We can bet that the people promoting unregulated abortion will be fighting back, and in fact are doing so already.

So who wants it more? Do pro-life Granite Staters want to build on this victory?

Continue reading “Pro-life policies in state budget: victory with an expiration date (UPDATED)”

There is a GOP primary for Governor in New Hampshire

New Hampshire voters will go to the polls on September 8 for a primary election. Republican Governor Chris Sununu has competition.

Karen Testerman is on the ballot

Karen Testerman is on the GOP primary ballot for Governor. You might or might not like her; you might think she’s well- or ill-equipped for the job; you might or might not agree with her that Sununu has botched the state’s COVID-19 response; you might think she’s a gadfly or a “protest” candidate. But she is on the GOP primary ballot, and she is campaigning like she means it.

From GraniteGrok: Was challenger Karen Testerman’s lawn sign deemed non-essential by the NHGOP or was it the Governor?

I interviewed Karen in 2013 as she contemplated a Senate run. Now, as then, she is a social conservative. That’s not what she led with when she launched her challenge to Governor Sununu: she challenged him over the social, business, and education fallout from the COVID-19 emergency orders he has issued. More recently she has made a point of broadening her message to reaffirm the positions for which she is well-known.

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