In NH, Roe’s New Tagline: “Civility, Compassion, Love”

Less than a mile from New Hampshire’s State House in Concord is the Feminist Health Center on Main Street, an abortion facility from way back. It was founded 39 years ago, just a year after Roe v. Wade. The homey little building is easy to miss on a normal day, with only a modest sign to distinguish it from nearby residences.

Last Saturday wasn’t a normal day. Hundreds of pro-life activists, including myself, marched peacefully from the State House to St. John’s church for New Hampshire’s annual March for Life, passing the FHC and its chanting supporters along the way. The FHC’s tiny front lawn was scattered with little signs bearing assorted messages. In the midst of them was a much larger sign, professionally made and carefully installed, with three words: “Civility. Compassion. Love.”

Put aside for the moment the fact that the dozen or so people chanting at us were carrying things like a handmade drawing of a fried egg (or was it poached?) with the legend “This is not a chicken.”  The clumsy slogan and kiddie art on poster board at least looked like an authentic un-staged production. But that big sign? That one came from the pros.

“Civility. Compassion. Love.” Warm words for such a cold setting. Tried-and-tested, slick, polished focus-group words. Striking and thought-provoking words. There was no sign for “Choice” on the lawn.  “Choice” has apparently worn out its welcome, as one poll after another has driven home the point that choice means something very different to the average American than it does to the average abortion-facility worker. Roe needs new slogans.

Of course it needs them, since the plain language of the decision is insufficient to support the industry that has grown up around it.

Under Roe, according to the Supreme Court, parental notification for minors’ abortions is allowed, as long as there’s a judicial bypass. No parent can stop an abortion under these laws. Decisions based on Roe have affirmed that there may be limits on government funding of abortion. Courts have upheld laws against partial-birth abortion, since nothing in Roe or the decisions flowing from it require that we tolerate a procedure to pull a fetus partway out of its mother before the abortionist gets to the main event. Roe allows for the collection of abortion statistics and other oversight to ensure that abortion providers aren’t harming women. Roe allows informed-consent measures such as notifying the pregnant women of the developmental stage of the fetus.

I have heard a representative of FHC testify against each and every one of these measures in New Hampshire, saying they limit access to abortion. She celebrates Roe nonetheless, trusting that a future Supreme Court will roll back all oversight.

In my state, there’s no requirement that abortions be done by a physician or a nurse practitioner. No licensing or training requirements exist. There is no informed consent requirement. There is no need to report to the state how many abortions are done, never mind if a woman is injured or killed as a result. No one in New Hampshire who touts “safe” abortion can point to objective data confirming the alleged “safety” for the woman undergoing the procedure, whether the abortion is surgical or chemical. And still FHC’s supporters are concerned that New Hampshire now does too much to suppress Roe. 

That’s not compassion. It sure isn’t love. I would even go so far as to say it isn’t civil. It’s outrageous.

And the aborted children? It’s unclear if last weekend’s fried-egg poster outside FHC is reflective of the pre-abortion counseling offered to FHC clients. I see no compassion for the children who are denied their very birth, and I see no civility in any policy that pits women against their children.

The new tagline on display at FHC means that three more words might go the way of “choice,” being misused and distorted. It’s left to pro-life activists to make sure no one can forget what civility, compassion, and love really mean.

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.

Mandate Rationale? Try Checking Under the Penumbra

Back in 1965, Justice Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote for the majority in the Griswold case that the right to privacy, while not explicit in the U.S. Constitution, could be derived as an “emanation” within the “penumbra” of enumerated rights. (That’s his language, not mine.) Emanations and penumbras can of course be toxic, as we learned in ’73 when Roe was handed down, buttressed by Griswold’s reasoning.

Forty-seven years later, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is apparently all on board with penumbras. She was on Capitol Hill yesterday to face Congressional questioning. One bold soul asked her how she decided the HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate could square with religious liberty. Madam Secretary’s reply:

“Congressman, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the constitutional balancing tests […] I am not going to wade into constitutional law, I’m talking about the fact that we are implementing a law that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, which directed our department to develop a package of preventive health services for women. We have done just that with the advice of the Institute of Medicine, and promulgated that rule.”

I am indebted to Calvin Freiburger (here) and his unbeatable commentary on that answer, published in Live Action News today:
“Note well that the combination of congressional votes, presidential signatures, and the opinion of the Institute of Medicine amount to somewhere between nada and zilch when it comes to constitutional law.”