Things to be Dodged

From the New Hampshire Union Leader, 8/15/17, page C1, “DNA discovery: NH biologist reacts to gene-editing breakthrough”: an associate professor of molecular and systems biology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine is asked for his comment on a recent study published in the journal Nature. The study reports that researchers in Oregon have had success using gene-editing to repair human embryos that carry a certain mutation.

Says the Dartmouth professor: “The way they have dodged some ethical considerations is that they didn’t go on to have that embryo grow into a person.”

No dispute that these are human embryos, each with unique DNA. But considering them persons would make a hash out of things – or rather, would raise “ethical considerations.”  Considerations to be dodged, apparently.

There’s something to think about.

(Photo: By ekem, Courtesy: RWJMS IVF Program [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)



Situational Personhood

During the debate preceding the recent vote on the fetal homicide bill, one New Hampshire state representative made her way to the House gallery to hand me a thick bundle of stapled papers. She pointed out the top page to me, and then left without further comment to take her seat on the House floor.

The bundle was an amendment to a Commerce bill that had just been voted on. The topic was trusts, basically property, and the protection and conveyance thereof. Check out the words that pass without controversy when the subject is trusts.

Unborn person.
Ironically, at the moment I read that, a representative was making a speech cautioning that a fetal homicide law would confer personhood on the fetus. No word on whether she takes issue with the term “unborn person” as it applies to trust law.

Legislation addressing unborn victims of violence is not personhood legislation. If it were, with nearly 40 states and the federal government having one or another form of a fetal homicide law, Roe v. Wade would have been kicked to the curb long ago.

The irony meter jumped up another notch as the omigosh-not-personhood politician at the microphone switched between “fetus” and “baby” as she spoke against the bill.

I’d like to think she’s teetering on the edge of a revelation, for all her thus-far adamant abortion advocacy.


Darlene Pawlik and Rebecca Kiessling: “Did I deserve the death penalty?”

Seventh in the Voices to Trust series.

Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 is featured in an ad for Feminists for Life. She is a woman who was conceived in rape, and she has one question about rape-and-incest exceptions to abortion regulation.

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Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

I interviewed Rebecca a couple of years ago. When asked about the no-exceptions position being a tough sell, she replied, “We need to speak words of life and value. Even pro-lifers need to be careful in the way they communicate. We want to change hearts and minds….Point out that rape and incest exceptions benefit the perpetrator. Abortion hides evidence of his crime. Protect a woman from rape and abortion, not from a baby.”

Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire, also of Save the 1, is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life. She was conceived in rape and as a teenager was sexually trafficked.  Today, she speaks and writes about the need to defend life at all stages, regardless of the circumstances of conception. In a 2013 interview with me, Darlene said that when she decided to go public with her story, a friend advised her not to. Darlene went ahead anyway. “I said stop. No more secrets. I am the ‘exception.’

Darlene’s web site,, carries the tag line “Bad beginnings do not necessitate bad endings.” She writes, “I am so passionate about the value of every life; whether one is conceived with wine and roses, in a test tube or as a result of violence. I absolut[e]ly reject the utilitarian view that people are valuable only if they can contribute to society in arbitrarily contrived ways. We should all hold to the Declaration of Independence’s admonition that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One’s right to life trumps all other rights.”

See a related post from 2013 about Darlene and Rebecca.

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On Roe+42, quite a legislative ride

The New Hampshire House held a committee hearing on a personhood bill today. Lots of testimony in favor, lots of skeptical questions from the committee members. No vote yet. Meanwhile, down in Washington, a big-deal pro-life vote planned to coincide with the national March for Life morphed into something else. I’m still trying to sort it out. There was something in here to please and offend just about everyone.

In Washington, hundreds of thousands march for life

screenshot of EWTN coverage of March for Life 2015
screenshot of EWTN coverage of March for Life 2015

While legislators toiled in Concord and the nation’s capitol, the March for Life went on in Washington. Tuning in to some of the coverage on EWTN was a fair antidote to any legislative overload. I’m glad one network considers an annual civil rights march with hundreds of thousands of people worth covering in depth. If you mutter “well, of course…it’s a Catholic network”, I’m glad anyway. Shame on any “news” organization that skimps on March for Life coverage in favor of in-depth reporting on deflated footballs.

Warning: exceptions alert

True confessions:

  • I support the Hyde Amendment, which has been attached to every federal HHS appropriation for a generation. The Amendment is meant to keep federal funds from paying for most abortions. I support it even though it has a rape-&-incest exception. I don’t see that as “okaying” such abortions.
  • I support parental notification legislation, even though it allows abortions if parents or a judge approve them.
  • I support a ban on partial-birth abortions, even though such laws leave every other type of abortion legal.

You get the idea. Human life exists from the moment of conception and is to be protected. Not every law touching on the life issues protects every human being. That doesn’t mean I want to throw out Hyde, parental notification, and so on.

This becomes relevant as we look at the mess that the House made out of a decent bill over the past few days.

A federal 20-week ban is on hold

The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act, as originally written and introduced in Congress, would have made abortions illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the grounds that babies can feel pain at that point.

You and I are human whether we can feel pain or not. I say that without fear of serious argument. I favored the bill, though, because it was a good step. A consensus point: most Americans find late-term abortions at least distasteful.  The Republicans were supposedly going to get this passed: it had passed the House once before, only to come up against an obstinately pro-abortion Democratic Senate. The 2014 election brought a Republican Senate to power. A vote was scheduled for January 22, to coincide with the march in Washington. So – on with the 20-week ban. Right?

No. An exception for rape & incest abortions was added to the bill. Uh-oh. No-exceptions members of Congress objected, as did national groups like Save the 1. Then a provision was added that a rape survivor wanting a post-20-week abortion couldn’t have one unless the rape was first reported to law enforcement. I heard from an authoritative source yesterday what was confirmed in news coverage today: every woman in the GOP conference in the House, save one, said they’d abandon the bill unless the latter provision were removed. Few Republican men want to be cast as being unsympathetic to women, so this caused great consternation in the party conference. The upshot: Speaker Boehner pulled the bill from the calendar.

He did so despite the fact that the bill with its exceptions and its rape-reporting language was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List (which expected its endorsed candidates to support it; that was a miscalculation), the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and the organizers of the national March for Life.

The number of emails from these groups over the past 48 hours became positively oppressive. More oppressive still was the absence of any mention of the bill’s exceptions.

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina explained why she led the charge to derail the bill: “I think we’re all just going through some growing pains,” and she didn’t want the GOP to sound “harsh” to women and young people. Help yourself to her comments here. So much for being endorsed by pro-life groups.

Would I have cut off my support for my Congressman had he voted for the exceptions-laden bill? No, in view of his overall record (and in view of the rabid pro-abortion beliefs of the woman he replaced). But let’s not pretend the exceptions weren’t there.

The bill will be brought up at a later date. What condition it will arrive in is anybody’s guess.

A postscript: conspicuously absent from the list of organizations promoting the bill was Americans United for Life. AUL’s Women’s Protection Project includes model legislation restricting late-term abortions because of the sharply increased risk they pose to a pregnant woman. The Project is a state-by-state endeavor.

The consolation prize: the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

From the Washington Examiner:

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), sponsor of No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which passed 242-179, was identical to a bill that cleared the Republican-run House last year but died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate. Only three Democrats supported the measure, with Rep. Richard Hanna of Indiana the lone Republican to reject it. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., would make it illegal for individuals to use the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies to buy plans that cover abortion services through the new health exchanges. Many states have already passed legislation limiting abortion coverage in exchange plans, but the measure the House approved would apply nationwide and possibly discourage insurers on the exchanges from offering abortion coverage at all.

Democrats are calling it an assault on women’s health, but they always call taxpayer divestiture from the abortion industry an assault on women’s health.

The bill leaves untouched the Affordable Care Act’s provision that suppression of women’s fertility is such a public health imperative that contraception (including abortion-inducing drugs and devices) must be covered as “preventive care,” paid for by all of us. Still, am I pleased about today’s no-funding bill, as far as it goes? Yes, as far as it goes. Call me an incrementalist.

Meanwhile in Concord, personhood gets a hearing

Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) and nine co-sponsors brought the All People Created Equal Act to the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee today. The Act, HB 194, is simply – or complexly – a personhood bill.

Committee chairman Rep. Robert Rowe (R-Amherst) was prepared. He booked a double-sized room and did not put anything else on the committee calendar for the day. I stayed for only an hour and a half. Judging from the number of people signing in on the bill, I suspect the festivities went well into the afternoon.

The pink t-shirts file in before the personhood hearing in Concord, 1/22/15.
The pink t-shirts file in before the personhood hearing in Concord, 1/22/15.

A pink-t-shirt brigade of Planned Parenthood supporters, nine in all, occupied seats a front corner of the public area. As I’ve noticed at other events, I’ve never seen a faded PP shirt. Are they EVER worn more than once?

From perspectives scientific, religious, and moral, supporters of the bill endorsed the idea that public policy should acknowledge that the offspring of human beings should be recognized as persons from the moment of conception. Unique DNA, undoubtedly human, genetically distinct from the mother: what’s to argue?

Eight state representatives testified to this. More reps signed in but were unable to testify in person; hearings were going on throughout the building on a multitude of other bills. Representatives of New Hampshire Right to Life were there. I recognized several pro-lifers who took time off work or lined up babysitters so they could support the bill in person.

And in the other corner, so to speak: Planned Parenthood and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union had testified against the bill by the time I left. “A frontal attack on access to abortion,” said PP. “Giving legal rights to fertilized eggs would affect many other laws….This doesn’t start a dialogue. This would change the law without a dialogue,” said NHCLU.

Questions from the committee: wouldn’t this stop stem-cell research? (Not adult stem cells.) Wouldn’t this stop in vitro fertilizations? Would this mean “leftover” embryos couldn’t be destroyed? Would the murder of a pregnant woman count as a double homicide? (Tune in when fetal homicide gets a hearing.) If doctors get to decide when life ends, shouldn’t they be able to decide when life begins? (That one came from Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, who has much more faith in the medical profession than I.) If Republican principles support limited government, doesn’t this expand government? (That’s another one from Mr. Sylvia, who knows that personhood is also part of the NHGOP platform.)

The unspoken questions I heard all morning: No exceptions? Really? Wouldn’t this really mess up what we’re used to?

Of course it would. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at what we’re used to.


Notes from the NHGOP convention

After the dust settled at Saturday’s 2014 New Hampshire Republican convention, there was still one political party in New Hampshire with a platform that recognizes and respects the right to life of every human being. That outcome was worth waiting for.

My information comes from what I heard even after the proceedings were closed to me, and from what delegates (most of whom requested anonymity) told me after the convention.

The day’s big story wasn’t the story I expected. The interviews I conducted early in the day were rendered beside-the-point by the outcome of the platform votes.

Keeping the press out is pointless. I was with the press contingent, and we were welcomed for the pep-rally portion of the program. Once policy discussion began, we were barred, although “guests” were welcome to stay. Political parties are more-or-less private entities that can grant or deny access to any party function, and hooray for that. Even so, the venue’s walls were thin and the hallway worked pretty well for me as a monitoring station. Also, Twitter and smartphones are here to stay. Four hundred politically-active individuals were in that room, and they all know how to hit “send.”

Personhood has hit the big time. The NHGOP platform already had pro-life language under the “Family” section. It’s now stronger than ever, and the haters-at-large are already attacking the plank – but that’s a topic for another day. The delegates adopted this: “Support the pre-born child’s fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections.” More: “Support a Life at Conception Act guaranteeing the protections of Life and Personhood to the pre-born under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Wow. Abortion advocates like Mmes. Hassan and Shaheen are already in overdrive about the “anti-woman” platform – by the way, has anyone asked them about their support for sex-selection abortion, as long as we’re getting into “anti-woman” stuff? – and Scott Brown has reaffirmed that he’s pro-choice, whatever that means.

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The timing of the convention is interesting. To an independent voter like me (or as I sometimes call myself, a recovering Republican), one Saturday is as good as another. I have to wonder how the candidates in the convention hall felt about that. Two hundred or so delegates were in the hall when the convention was gavelled to order on September 20, and a couple of hundred more were credentialed by the time the platform discussion begana few hours later. That makes over 400 people who weren’t out knocking on doors on a good-weather Saturday six weeks before the election.

Teach your kids parliamentary procedure. A couple of decades ago, I attended state GOP conventions as a delegate – three times, if memory serves. One thing hasn’t changed since my delegate days: contention over rules and parliamentary procedure. A lot of good people were angry at how the convention was conducted (and a number of them vented on Facebook afterward). Anger over the rules nearly triggered a mass walkout, until cooler heads prevailed (to outstanding effect).

Delegates heard from four candidates and one sitting U.S. Senator, none of whom addressed the right to life or the “war on women” lie. It was left to keynote speaker Carly Fiorina to bring up “war on women.” She could give lessons to some of the GOP candidates. The overriding message: jobsandtheeconomyjobsandtheeconomyjobsandtheeconomy. Ah, yes, that’ll keep the fearmongers at bay. Worked so well in 2012 … but I’m repeating myself. By the way, I was in an alcove in the back of the room as each speaker was introduced, and I can tell you who got a wholehearted all-the-way-to-the-back-row standing ovation: Marilinda Garcia, running against Ann Kuster in CD2. I can tell you who didn’t: everyone else.

The platform still affirms one-man-one-woman marriage. I would have bet heavily on adoption of an amendment redefining marriage. Didn’t happen. There was a vote on that, and it wasn’t close.

The people who were angriest about the rules-and-parliamentary brouhaha did not walk out. This may have played into the outcome of the vote on the pro-life plank. I’m confident it played heavily into the marriage vote. A walkout would have left a room full of legacy Republicans – fine people, good neighbors, jobsandtheeconomy. Before the platform vote, one pro-life delegate who’s a veteran of NHGOP conventions sought me out while he was working to persuade disaffected delegates to stay. “No way am I going to walk out. I worked too hard to get here,” he told me. An hour later, the wisdom of his decision was evident. He later emailed me: “Many people helped make these votes possible. I think there were also some miracles from God!” Another email, this one from a first-time delegate: “It is amazing how social conservatives were mobilized to sign up to run as delegates for the convention. I was contacted by two different people asking me to run.”

Q & A with some of the delegates and guests before the convention: Jane Cormier, outgoing state rep and recent state senate candidate: What’s the most important thing you think can be accomplished today? “I would like to be able to see that we haven’t ended up with a totally different thrust to the platform. Time will tell.” State senate candidate Kathy Rago was thinking along the same lines. “I hope we can keep the platform from being watered down today.”

I had a longer chat with Skip Murphy of Granite Grok. What’s going on with the GOP in New Hampshire? “I’m not sure anymore, to be perfectly honest with you. I don’t know what it stands for. I know what the platform stands for. I know what they campaigned on. But then when you look at the talk versus the walk, some of the legislation – especially some of the votes last session [in Concord] – I don’t know what the Republican party stands for.” Any suggestions for GOP voter outreach? “They’d better be real careful, because I think when they reach over they’re going to topple over as well. I look at it this way: in 2010-2012, the Democrats demonized the Tea Party, those newly-active folks who found out that politics matters. They came out in overwhelming numbers, first-time newbies, and they were scorned for being newbies, but they had strength of character and exuberance to get involved. Democrats demonized them, seeing them as the existential terror they really were to the Democrat agenda. Unfortunately during this campaign season, we’ve seen Republicans turn on them as well, so a lot of them are going to stay home.”

After the convention,  I got a Facebook communication from a longtime pro-life education activist in Manchester who was a first-time delegate. After a morning of pep-rally speeches and an afternoon of getting down the the nitty-gritty of platform adoption, this was how one newbie reviewed the festivities.

“My first trip to the NH Republican State Convention is over. What a day! Met so many interesting people from across the state. I was amazed that folks were willing to drive over 2 hours to attend. The speeches by the candidates were uninspiring. Money, money, more about money. Republicans want it to go one place, Democrats want it to go somewhere else. But when we got down to business, I realized that Money doesn’t win elections or votes. What gets people excited and what animates them and gets them involved are the Social Issues. Wasn’t a single battle about money when it came to the Platform. We fought to defend the rights of the preborn – and won. We fought to support traditional Marriage between one Man and one Woman – and won. So Scott Brown, Walt Havenstein, and the Party Establishment should take note – NH Republicans will turn out the vote for the babies and traditional family values. Exactly why should we turn out in November for the wishy-washy prattle of Brown or Havenstein? Those boys should pledge to put aside their ‘personal beliefs’ and support the Platform and vote accordingly. Maybe then they will be worth voting for in November. If not, I see a huge loss for both. It was invigorating to be around so many like minded people. Today’s Platform win was a win for the Family, which is always a win for the Children, our Future.”