Shaheen: “We won’t go back”

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) sends out occasional email updates to anyone who cares to subscribe. They are as smooth and polished as you’d expect from a savvy, experienced politician. Her most recent one, released close to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, included a celebration of abortion, tucked in below a few other news items.

As you read this, bear in mind that then-Gov. Shaheen in 1997 signed the law that stripped New Hampshire statutes of 19th-century abortion laws, replacing them with nothing. She made New Hampshire Gosnell-friendly before we’d ever heard of him.

Bear in mind as well that Sen. Shaheen is running this year for her third term representing New Hampshire in the United States Senate.

Here’s a screenshot of the relevant portion of the January 2020 update, with text below in case the image fails to load. The photo in the screenshot is from the original email.

From Sen. Shaheen email to constituents, January 2020

Senator Shaheen’s words, from that screenshot:

This week marked the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, a landmark case that determined legal and constitutional safeguards for what many of us already morally believed to be true: women’s reproductive health care decisions belong to them, not their government.

Roe has had a dramatic impact over the past 47 years. The Supreme Court decision ushered in a new era for women’s health, reducing the number of dangerous back alley abortions and expanding access to family planning services and contraceptives, which have helped reduce abortion rates to historic lows.

As we look back on decades of progress, we do so knowing that the rights secured by Roe v. Wade have never been more in danger since the decision was first handed down. Republican efforts to overturn Roe, restrictive state laws that seek to shut down abortion clinics, and the Trump administration’s incessant attacks on family planning programs continue to put women’s health at stake.

“I’m inspired by the groundswell of activism by women and girls of all ages in response to these attacks on women’s health, and I believe that together we can fight off these efforts and keep pushing forward. We stand on the shoulders of generations of women who fought to get us here. We can’t go back. We won’t go back.”

I was struck as I read Sen. Shaheen’s message by how much I agree with that last paragraph. Fresh off my trip to the March for Life in Washington, I too am inspired by the groundswell of activism by women and girls of all ages – in response to attacks on human dignity and the right to life, that is. I agree that we can keep pushing forward. I stand on the shoulders of women who fought to get the pro-life movement this far. I won’t go back.

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.

Your Tax Dollars At Work: $600K for PPNNE

With a nod to Cornerstone Action, and with full disclosure that I’m a Cornerstone communications consultant, let me link you to this morning’s headline from the Cornerstone blog: “Title X Grantees Announced.” Among the recipients of this federally-disbursed family planning money, with no messy intermediate stop at the New Hampshire Executive Council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

From Cornerstone’s post:

[The federal Department of Health and Human Services] has announced grant awards for Title X family planning funds for the grant period of April 1st  2019- March 31st  2020 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be the recipient of $600,000 of taxpayer money.

As you may recall, President Trump’s new rule was rumored to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars to go to organizations that promote and administer abortion as a form of birth control.

…Not satisfied with federal dollars, Planned Parenthood continues their fight to secure your state taxpayer dollars 

https://www.nhcornerstone.org/latest-news/title-x-grantees-announced/

This round of 90 family planning grants for fiscal year 2019 does include some recipients of an abortion-free persuasion who had not received Title X money before, and it includes as always a lot of federally-qualified health centers which do not perform abortions. But please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion providers have been cut out of Title X. It just ain’t so.

Quick review: Title X [that’s Roman numeral ten, not letter X] is a federal program that funds “family planning” efforts. Title X funds, while federal, are usually block-granted to states, and the states decide which contractors can most effectively carry out the Title X requirements. Abortion is explicitly excluded from Title X activity.

That’s how it’s usually (not always) done in New Hampshire, with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) receiving the federal money, then seeking bids from contractors and submitting the resulting contracts to the Executive Council for approval. It’s common for up to eleven contracts to be awarded in New Hampshire, with each contractor covering a different part of the state. Most of the contractors are federally-qualified health centers, but three are abortion providers: the Equality Center in Concord, the Lovering Center in Greenland, and PPNNE.

Each of those abortion providers solemnly swears as part of the Title X contract that none of the money will be used for abortion. That’s the extent of the firewall. To my knowledge, no one has figured out how to divvy up the money between the abortion and non-abortion use for the utilities, equipment, office space, and staffing of a facility.

Therefore, taxpayers wanting to divest completely from involvement in the abortion industry are out of luck. You’d think a $23 million agency like PPNNE could figure out a way to separate out abortion from authentic health care: separate facilities, staff, accounts. But no. You’ve got civil rights, but the right not to subsidize abortion providers isn’t on the list.

There are two New Hampshire grantees in the latest round announced by the feds: the state HHS department, which will get $800,000 for Title X, and PPNNE, which has a $600,000 grant all to itself.

from https://www.hhs.gov/opa/grants-and-funding/recent-grant-awards/index.html

The state HHS grant for Title X will go through the usual state contract bidding process, ending with an Executive Council vote that will probably hand over the money to the usual contractors. (I’m guessing a 4-1 vote, but don’t hold me to that.)

The PPNNE Title X grant, on the other hand, goes directly to PPNNE. Does that mean PPNNE won’t reach for more money from general funds in the state budget, now being drafted? Big fat “no.” Check out this Concord Monitor article from last weekend.

Don’t blame one political party over another. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. You can start by letting the President know what you think of the handouts from the federal HHS department. It’s an executive agency, and he’s Chief Executive.

N.H. House Committee Rejects Buffer Zone Repeal Bill

On a vote of 14-4, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) today on HB 124, which seeks to repeal the buffer zone law. The full House will take up the bill at a date yet to be determined. [Update: House vote is scheduled for January 31.]

The law, written to give abortion facility managers authority to restrict public access to public areas, has never been used since its passage in 2014. Its clear incompatibility with the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCullen decision might be the reason. Only the abortion facility managers know for sure.

All Democrats on the committee were joined by Republicans Edward Gordon (R-Bristol) and Joe Alexander (R-Goffstown) in voting to kill the repeal effort. Voting against the ITL motion were Republicans Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford), Gary Hopper (R-Weare), Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown), and Mark McLean (R-Manchester).

“For me, it comes down to a free speech issue,” said Rep. McLean. “No clinic throughout the state has actually put [the buffer zone’s] provisions into play.”

Rep. Wuelper, the bill’s chief sponsor, told his colleagues before the vote, “[The buffer zone law’s] very intent is to restrict speech and religion in a public space based on the content of speech. [The law] hasn’t done any good in five years. It won’t do any good in 50 years.”

Not so, countered Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland). “Perhaps it’s had a salutary effect,” he said. “The facts that were present [when the law was passed] have not changed.” He’s right about that much: McCullen was present when the law was passed and it’s still binding precedent. Rep. Berch also said, “The law was drafted and passed after the Supreme Court decision [in McCullen].” He may have forgotten that the buffer zone law was drafted no later than the opening of the legislative session in January 2014, while the McCullen decision came down in June of that year.

“This is a church-state issue,” added Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), saying he had documentation that one particular religious entity, the Catholic Church, opposed the buffer zone. “I am a Roman Catholic myself.” His one-religion claim probably comes as a surprise to people like Rev. Don Colageo of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester, who has frequently led prayer vigils at an area abortion site. Further, said Rep. Horrigan, “There isn’t a First Amendment right to provide counseling or advocacy if you’re not licensed.”

The ITL motion was made by Rep. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) and seconded by Rep. Sandra Keans (D-Rochester.)

Reviewing 2018, Welcoming 2019

A New Year’s toast: to life! Thank you to the readers who have sustained Leaven for the Loaf, and thank you to everyone whose pro-life work has kept me inspired and challenged all along the way. Join me now as I pack away some artifacts of the year just ended.

The Posts

It’s a mixed bag of topics for the most-viewed posts of 2018.

  1. CareNet: John Oliver Gets It Wrong About Pregnancy Centers. When a late-night TV personality used his platform to criticize pro-life pregnancy care centers, CareNet’s CEO wasted no time setting him straight, with a video offering a positive response to a hostile report.
  2. Gallery: New Hampshire March for Life 2018. Speaker Jennifer Christie of Save the 1 shared her powerful story.
  3. Gosnell: Film Review. In the hands of an inept screenwriter or the wrong director, this true-crime story could have gone badly awry.  The makers of Gosnell got it right. The film will be coming to on-demand video and DVD in early 2019.
  4. But Wait, There’s More. This was a brief report on an ill-advised bill that would have nullified New Hampshire’s parental notification law. The House later killed the bill.
  5. Trust Women, You Say? Start Here. Coverage of January’s hearing on a bill, HB 1707, that would have established comprehensive informed consent requirements for abortion.
  6. A Genteel Rant on Party Unity. In which I’m reminded (yet again) that political-party-linked activism is not always helpful in building a culture of life.
  7. Abortion Statistics: “Inexpedient to Legislate.” “Two hundred [N.H.] legislators voted like people who are afraid of evidence-based public health policy and afraid of political retribution from abortion providers.” Another statistics bill has been introduced for 2019.
  8. Slamming Shut a Doorway to Assisted Suicide. A state senator let slip that her proposed study committee on end-of-life issues was actually a path to an assisted suicide law. Her fellow senators took her at her word and killed her bill. A similar bill is on the way for the coming legislative session.
  9. Why I’m Voting No on Question 2. A ballot question about adding a “privacy” amendment to the state constitution passed, not long after I posted this cautionary message. Time will tell if my concerns had merit.
  10. Do Not Accept Anything As The Truth If It Lacks Love.” Wise words from St. Teresa Benedicta.

The Events

I reported from the state and national Marches for Life in 2018, and I plan to do the same in 2019. On January 12, less than two weeks from now, you can attend any portion of the day-long program of events that accompany the march in Concord. The March for Life in Washington will be held the following Friday, January 18.

2018 brought two more 40 Days for Life campaigns. The next one is coming up in a little over a month, and you’ll be hearing more from me about that in the coming days.

I went to St. Louis, Missouri for the third annual Pro-Life Women’s Conference last June. The first PLWC in 2016 was organized by Abby Johnson and the team at And Then There Were None. Since then, the conference has grown to include a diverse group of speakers and attendees guaranteed to broaden the horizons of anyone working in the pro-life movement. For just one example, read the message from one of this year’s featured speakers, Savannah Marten: “We find the tables we need to be sitting at.”

The next Pro-Life Women’s Conference is scheduled for June 2019 in New Orleans. I’m already saving my pennies for it. Check out the event’s web site; you might want to make the trip, too.

Best Short Video: “Desperate Measures”

For media in 2018, the Gosnell film is in a class by itself. For short video, I was glad to find and share “Desperate Measures” by Sidewalk Advocates for Life.  Featuring former abortion workers who are now committed pro-lifers, the video is a direct response to recent sit-ins and “rescues” at abortion facilities. The message is don’t do it – and here’s the better way to carry out peaceful pro-life witness. 

Looking Ahead

I’ll be back at the State House to report on 2019 legislation including buffer zone repeal, abortion statistics, and death penalty repeal. I’ll venture to claim that since 2012, no other New Hampshire blog has covered life-issue bills in Concord to the extent attempted by this little enterprise called Leaven for the Loaf. I aim to keep it going.

When my travels lead me to inspirational people and places, you’ll hear about them.

Over a year ago, I had intended to publish an anthology of Leaven posts – and I’m glad I didn’t! The manuscript was not ready for prime time. In 2019, on a much more modest scale than first envisioned, the anthology will be ready.

As longtime readers will have noticed, Facebook and Twitter became significant extensions of the blog in 2018, especially during coverage of marches and conferences. If you’re not following those social media feeds yet, I invite you to do so.

The New Year is here. Let’s make the most of it.