Hearings this week: “Access to Abortion Care Act” and attacks on Fetal Life Protection Act

Three abortion-advancing bills will get a hearing this week in Concord. On January 18, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hear HB 1609, gutting the recently-enacted Fetal Life Protection Act (FPLA). On January 19, in the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear one bill that would repeal FPLA outright, and another that would make abortion throughout pregnancy a statutory right enforceable in court.

New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation hasn’t even been in effect for three weeks, and even that’s too long for these legislators. Mark your calendars. Plan to attend, or sign in remotely, or submit written testimony – or go for the trifecta by doing all three. You can attend the hearing without speaking; your presence will have impact. Spread the word about the need for remote sign-ins from people who can’t attend the hearings!

Reminder: “FN” simply means that the bill has a fiscal note, indicating an effect on state spending. You do not have to include those letters when communicating with a legislator about the bill.

HB 1609, weakening the Fetal Life Protection Act

Hearing: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 9:50 a.m., Legislative Office Building rooms 210-211, House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the House website at this link.

Six Republicans have introduced HB 1609, weakening FLPA, presumably making it more palatable to Governor Sununu. It would repeal the ultrasound requirement in FLPA, and add exceptions to FLPA’s 24-week limit to allow late-term eugenic abortion as well as late-term abortion of children conceived in rape or incest.

In an attempt to sweeten the bowl of mush, the sponsors added a provision calling for the collection of abortion statistics. I’ve told people for years that if the legislature ever passes a stats bill, I’ll go away happy. HB 1609 isn’t my idea of a stats bill.

The six Republicans who are co-sponsoring the measure with no help from Democrats are Reps. Dan Wolf (R-Newbury, chief sponsor), Brodie Deshaies (R-Wolfeboro), James Allard (R-Pittsfield), John Graham (R-Bedford), Bonnie Ham (R-North Woodstock), and Joseph DePalma IV (R-Littleton).

Repeat after me: “prolife” is not spelled G-O-P. A bill that makes the intentional termination of human life more readily available is not a prolife bill.

SB 399-FN, repealing the Fetal Life Protection Act

Hearing: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 1:00 p.m., State House room 100, Senate Judiciary Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the Senate website at this link.

The sponsors for some reason are calling SB 399 “repealing the fetal health protection act” when the law they’re attacking is clearly named “fetal life protection act.” Go back to page 14 of HB 2, the budget trailer law, if you don’t believe me. But I digress.

You’ll recall that the Fetal Life Protection Act, limiting abortions in New Hampshire to 24 weeks, went into effect January 1. SB 399 would repeal it. It’s a 3-line bill, deceptively nicknamed by the sponsors the “Reproductive Health Privacy Act,” and it would go into effect immediately if passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. Sponsors are all ten of the Senate’s Democrats, led by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua). House co-sponsors are Reps. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), Alexis Smith (D-Exeter), Amanda Bouldin (D-Manchester), Katherine Rogers (D-Concord), and Renny Cushing (D-Hampton).

Side note: Another effort to repeal the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA) is on hold. Abortion advocates on the House Judiciary Committee took a “retained” bill from 2021 (HB 622), threw out its language, and replaced it with language repealing FLPA. When that stunt reached the full House on January 7, the bill was tabled. Stay tuned; it’ll be back.

SB 436-FN, “relative to access to abortion care”

Hearing: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 2:00 p.m. (right after the hearing on SB 399), State House room 100, Senate Judiciary Committee. You can sign in online TODAY to register your opposition to the bill, following the directions on the Senate website at this link.

SB 436 goes like this: “It shall be the public policy of New Hampshire that, because it is vital to the equality and liberty of all individuals, the state shall not restrict or interfere with an individual’s exercise of their private decision to terminate a pregnancy except as provided in RSA 329:44 and RSA 132:32-RSA 132:36.”

But wait, there’s more: “An individual injured as a result of a violation of this chapter shall have a private right of action in superior court against the state for injunctive relief arising from the violation. In addition to any injunctive relief awarded, the court may award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to an injured person who prevails in an action brought under this chapter.”

So… if the state protects the First Amendment rights of peaceful prolife witnesses outside an abortion facility, does that constitute “interference” with termination of a pregnancy? Will the state get sued for not stopping peaceful prolife witness?

If SB 436 were to be enacted, would an individual seeking a late-term abortion be able to sue the state because FLPA is on the books?

Abortion advocates heard the uproar when they tried to enshrine abortion in the New Hampshire constitution a couple of years ago, and they backed off. Now, they’re trying to get the job done via statute.

Go on record any way you can

Refer to the tool kit for this legislative session, my modest attempt at a guided tour of how to testify in person and communicate online with your reps. Time to put it to work.

Current Covid precautions at the State House and Legislative Office Building include encouragement of mask use.

The state budget – and what comes after

You need to get out on those sidewalks outside where abortions are happening. Abortions aren’t going on in the halls of Congress. Abby Johnson once said this to a room full of New Hampshire activists. Another time, in a very brief exchange with me, she was impatient when I mentioned the political work to which I’m drawn. “Politics isn’t going to end this,” she said, “this” meaning abortion and all its detritus.

And yet I stay involved in politics. I know what happens when we concede the arena to politicians unwilling to accept or defend the right to life. More than once, I’ve heard “how did we get here?” from stunned neighbors who have just realized how abortion-friendly is our state’s political culture.

One vote at a time, that’s how. Course correction will come the same way.

So what does this have to do with the state budget? First, the last budget proposal was not encouraging as far as the right to life and conscience rights are concerned. Second, I need to remember that passage of an abortion-friendly state budget will need to be met with something more than hand-wringing.

Year in and year out, the budget is dominated by health and human services spending. Yet without a systemic commitment to the right to life – not something assigned as a privilege, but recognized as a right – then all the spending is just so much vote-buying, swaying with the vagaries of political fashion.

I see much online cheering for the final implementation of the federal rule barring abortion providers from getting Title X family planning funds. At the risk of being the skunk at the garden party, I’ll remind you that the proposed state budget passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate includes a dramatic increase in family planning money from state general funds, to offset any loss of federal funds to abortion providers who are also Title X contractors.

And then there’s the line in the House/Senate budget that repeals the previous prohibition on the use of state general funds for abortion.

Yes, Governor Sununu vetoed that budget. He never cited the abortion language as a reason, although he found plenty else to complain about. Reports on recent budget negotiations include nothing about removing the abortion language.

The Governor does not have line-item veto power in New Hampshire. It’s all-or-nothing when it comes to the budget. I am sure neither the Governor nor any of his staffers will dispute me when I say that he unlikely to veto a budget over abortion funding, if negotiations resolve all his other concerns.

(Pending a resolution of the budget impasse, the state is operating on a continuing resolution that basically continues spending at the same level on the same items as the last budget, which expired on June 30. The government is not shut down.)

So here we are, in the political position New Hampshire pro-lifers know best: underfoot. This brings me back to that sharp reminder I got from Abby Johnson: politics isn’t going to end the carnage – not by itself, anyway. I’m not suggesting taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers is unimportant. I am saying that whatever the state budget eventually looks like, good or bad, the most important pro-life work is going to go on without regard to any negotiations at the State House.

After the state budget is signed, pregnancy care centers are still going to be going about their business. They need volunteers, board members, executive directors, medical staffers. They need diapers and wipes and car seats and office supplies. You don’t need to vote for that. You can just do it.

After the budget is signed, we’re still going to have – eventually – a loved one or a neighbor or a child’s classmate who’ll face pregnancy and won’t know where to turn. You can be a voice of hope. You don’t need to sport an “I voted” sticker to do that.

After the budget is signed, bigotry against people with disabilities will still be real and dangerous. The attitude “better dead than disabled” will need pushback over and over again. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities will be at risk of “termination” on those grounds alone. You can demonstrate how to affirm human dignity, particularly if you’re living with disability or an adverse diagnosis. You might want to share your story with one of your elected officials, because nothing beats a personal story to get a message across.

After the budget is signed, you might still be called to be a peaceful pro-life witness in a public place. You might be called to put your professional skill at the service of life-affirming ministries. You might be called to a routine of prayer that’s new to you.

Imagine all this going on regardless of who’s in charge at the State House or who’s rallying outside a hearing. Now open your eyes: it’s all happening.

Let’s encourage each other.

Mildred Jefferson: right to life “the cause of all those who care about fairness & justice”

“Dr. Jefferson was sitting at our table and wearing one of her trademark stylish hats. She had an air of natural dignity and depth that made me suspect that we were in the company of quiet greatness. Little did [we] know at the time that she was an American history maker and ground breaker for African Americans and women.”

That’s from the blog of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, written shortly after the death of Dr. Mildred Jefferson in 2010. Dr. Jefferson had served MCFL as president, among her many other pro-life activities. From the same blog post come these words written by Dr. Jefferson in 1977.

“We come together from all parts of our land … We come rich and poor, proud and plain, religious and agnostic, politically committed and independent. … the right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law …”

Mildred Jefferson became active in the pro-life movement for the simplest of reasons: someone asked her. Pre-Roe v. Wade, the American Medical Association took a position deferring to increasingly-“liberalized” state laws on abortion. Dr. Jefferson was a surgeon by profession, and a fellow physician asked her to sign a petition objecting to the AMA’s move. The rest is history.

(Something to think about: have you invited anyone lately to get involved?)

Dr. Jefferson’s papers are held at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University (she was a graduate of Harvard Medical School). The mini-biography that accompanies her papers offers a glimpse into her activities. A partial list: one of the founders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life and the National Right to Life Committee, twice a candidate for U.S. Senate and once for the Eighth Congressional District, active with Americans United for Life Legal Defense Fund and Black Americans for Life, expert witness in court cases, and provider of expert testimony on legislation at every level from federal to municipal.

She assisted New Hampshire activists by coming to testify on life-issue bills. I asked New Hampshire Rep. Kathy Souza and former Rep. Phyllis Woods for some of their recollections. “She gave everything she had for the life rights of unborn babies, including her practice as a surgeon,” Souza told me. “She never complained, but always had a peaceful assurance that she was right in her pursuit of the truth and the right to life and let nothing discourage her. She always showed an inner confidence and was an inspiration. She came to speak for NHRTL at St. Casimir’s in Nashua back in the seventies.  My favorite image of her is the hat she was wearing then  — came to know it as part of her — a small hat, perched rather jauntily, but dignified.”

Woods recalls, “She took that Hippocratic Oath to the final degree. I remember when she was a speaker at the New Hampshire march for life in Concord. I was so impressed because she was going to run for Ted Kennedy’s seat. I thought ‘wow! What a gutsy woman!’ She was an awesome speaker.”

Souza adds, “She always managed to get in her favorite saying, that life should not be only for the ‘planned, the perfect, the privileged.'”

(c) Ellen Kolb/Leaven for the Loaf, 2016

Their trip was snowed out – so these students marched for life at home

“The truth doesn’t stop being the truth just because it’s hidden.” —Fr. Paul Soper

The Archdiocese of Boston cancelled its buses to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. , bowing to the weather forecast. More than four hundred students who had planned to be marching to the U.S. Supreme Court with fellow pro-lifers found themselves spending January 22 at home.

Instead of shrugging and saying “oh, well…”, these students along with workers for the Archdiocese brought their March for Life to Boston. Here’s the three-minute video they made, showing how they turned a cancelled trip into an enthusiastic and peaceful Boston witness for life.