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Ellen KolbMay 15, 2015Leave a comment

Update: Griffin’s Law “re-referred” to Senate committee

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday voted to re-refer the fetal homicide bill nicknamed “Griffin’s Law”, HB 560, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This will keep the bill introduced by Rep. Leon Rideout off the Senate floor for the rest of this year. According to Senate rules, “Rerefer to committee shall be a committee report only in the first year session and all such rereferred bills or resolutions shall be acted on by the fourth legislative day of the second year session.” 2015 is the first year of the two-year legislative session.

Senator Regina Birdsell’s Senate Bill 40, another fetal homicide measure, is still under consideration. It was amended in the House to be consistent with HB 560. It has not yet been scheduled for a concurrence vote in the Senate.

Rep. Rideout issued a statement after the vote. “I will continue the effort to bring a clear and concise fetal homicide law to New Hampshire. Families of the most innocent victims deserve no less from our state.”


 

Notes on a the vote: Two votes were taken on the same motion Thursday for HB 560. The Judiciary Committee recommended re-referral, and that motion was brought up for a roll call vote. It failed on an 11-13 vote, with supporters and opponents of the underlying bill on both sides of the re-refer question. The Senate President then ordered a thirty-minute recess that stretched to an hour. When the Senate re-convened, Senator Gary Daniels (a Griffin’s Law supporter) made another move for re-referral. Senator Kevin Avard asked for a roll call, but withdrew the request after a hasty conversation with his colleagues. Re-referral then passed on a voice vote.


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Ellen KolbMay 14, 20151 Comment

Buffer zone repeal tabled after tie vote

June 2014: Peaceful prayer witnesses outside Concord's Feminist Health Center, within what might become the "buffer"

Standing on the sidewalk outside Concord’s Feminist Health Center: soon to be a “violation”?

An attempt to repeal New Hampshire’s buffer zone law failed on a 12-12 vote Thursday in the New Hampshire Senate. Republicans Jerry Little of Weare and Nancy Stiles of Hampton joined the Senate’s ten Democrats in opposing the repeal measure, HB 403. Immediately after the vote, Senators tabled the bill on a voice vote. No amendments were formally proposed.

House Bill 403 would repeal the law passed last year putting public areas within up to 25 feet abortion facilities off-limits at the discretion of facility managers. The law has been under court injunction since last July, shortly after it was signed by Governor Maggie Hassan. Seven New Hampshire residents have filed suit to overturn the law. Their case, Reddy v. Foster, has been stayed repeatedly pending the outcome of HB 403.

The surprise: no amendments

Despite speculation among spectators before the vote, no buffer zone supporter tried a repeal-and-replace tactic. The only allusion to such a possibility was made by Senator Little, who mentioned in his floor speech that he was surprised not to find support among buffer zone supporters for the kind of “bubble zone” law in effect in some other states. Bubble zones, while restrictive, typically do not put public areas completely off limits to First Amendment activity.

The Vote

Voting to pass HB 403 and repeal the buffer zone law: Senators Jeanie Forrester of Meredith (district 2), Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro (dist. 3), Sam Cataldo of Farmington (dist. 6; co-sponsor of bill)), Andy Sanborn of Bedford (dist. 9), Gary Daniels of Milford (dist. 11; co-sponsor), Kevin Avard of Nashua (dist. 12; co-sponsor), Sharon Carson of Londonderry (dist. 14; co-sponsor), David Boutin of Hooksett (dist. 16), John Reagan of Deerfield (dist. 17), Regina Birdsell of Hampstead (dist. 19; co-sponsor), Chuck Morse of Salem (dist. 22), and Russell Prescott of Kingston (dist. 23). Bradley was one of the sponsors of the original buffer zone law, but he supported repeal today.

Voting to reject HB 403 and keep the buffer zone (and its litigation) in place: Senators Jeff Woodburn of Dalton (district 1), David Watters of Dover (dist. 4), David Pierce of Lebanon (dist. 5), Andrew Hosmer of Laconia (dist. 7), Jerry Little of Weare (dist. 8), Molly Kelly of Keene (dist. 10), Bette Lasky of Nashua (dist. 13), Dan Feltes of Concord (dist. 15), Donna Soucy of Manchester (dist. 18), Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester (dist. 20), Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth (dist. 21), and Nancy Stiles of Hampton (dist. 24).

The subsequent motion to table came from Jeb Bradley.


Notes on the debate

Carson moves Ought to Pass; Soucy counters with her favorite talking points. Judiciary Committee chair Sharon Carson urged her colleagues to adopt the committee’s “ought to pass” recommendation. Noting that the New Hampshire law is modeled on a Massachusetts law thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said, “What we have is a law on our books that is unconstitutional.”

Sen. Donna Soucy (E. Kolb photo)

Sen. Donna Soucy (E. Kolb photo)

Donna Soucy, who was the chief sponsor of the buffer zone law, was first to counter Carson’s recommendation. She trotted out her oft-repeated assertion that the Massachusetts and New Hampshire laws are different because of the size of the respective zones. She also claimed that New Hampshire’s law is flexible (“up to 25 feet”). “This is about access to basic health care.” She said she had introduced the law in response to people being “yelled at and obstructed” as they tried to enter abortion facilities.

Senator Soucy neglected to mention what has been brought out over and over again at hearings on the original law and the repeal bill: there are no police records to support claims of ongoing harassment or lawbreaking at any abortion facility in the state; the New Hampshire zone is “flexible” because, if enforced, it would give abortion providers sole control over posting, placement and enforcement hours (input by public authorities would be strictly advisory); and the Supreme Court threw out the Massachusetts law because the state had failed to try less restrictive measures to control activity outside abortion facilities.

The Republicans who created the tie: Senator Stiles argued against repeal, claiming that a Pittsburgh buffer zone was recently upheld in federal court (not at the Supreme Court level.) She did not enlighten her listeners with the reasoning behind that court’s decision or how the Pittsburgh and Massachusetts laws differ. She also said New Hampshire’s buffer zone law is “enabling, not mandatory.” Yup – it enables abortion providers, essentially private entities, to determine who may occupy public spaces near abortion facilities.

Senator Jerry Little wasn’t around when the buffer zone law was passed, but as district 8’s new senator he stood by the law co-sponsored by his predecessor Bob Odell. “It won’t come as a surprise that I’m pro-choice in my beliefs,” said Little today, adding that he thought abortion should be “legal, rare and safe.” He thinks the buffer zone law, unenforced though it may be, somehow contributes to safety. No word from him on how existing laws on trespassing, disorderly conduct and the like might contribute to safety.

photo from Kevin Avard for Senate Facebook page.

photo from Kevin Avard for Senate Facebook page.

Avard draws the most fire: All those early speakers, had they but known it, were merely setting the table for Senator Kevin Avard. His speech in favor of repeal was if anything even shorter than Carson’s. “I believe in freedom of speech and equal protection – the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” He believes the buffer zone law violates both of those constitutional provisions. He was then questioned at length by four colleagues who are ardent defenders of the buffer zone. Senators Feltes, Woodburn, Lasky and Hosmer went in order, with the questions becoming more sharply pitched each time. At no point did Avard lose his cool or his focus.

Feltes to Avard: “This is women’s health week.” Why do you think repeal of this safety zone is appropriate now? Avard: “This is about speech.” Feltes: “Do you support any buffer?” Avard: “I support the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Avard pointed out how legislation on a labor matter a few years back sparked a noisy crowd of citizens opposed to the bill. (I was there. I remember it well.) He said legislators supporting the bill were followed through the State House halls and onto surrounding sidewalks by people shouting at them, and “we managed without any buffer zone” to restrict the speech or the presence of the irate citizens.

Woodburn politely asked Avard a question: do you mean women going in for health care should get the same treatment as politicians? Personally, I was irked at that – I smelled a whiff of women being infantilized – but Avard didn’t go down that road. He replied with a question of his own for Woodburn (which the District 1 senator treated as rhetorical): “Is it intimidating if people [outside abortion facilities] are just praying?”

Hosmer was willing to take up that one. “Proximity of prayer really has no effect on the power of the prayer” – so why should the size of the buffer zone matter? Avard would not be pulled off his message – “First and Fourteenth Amendments.” Hosmer brought up the buffer zone around military funerals (also cited by some of his colleagues), asking Avard if he supported that. Avard replied, “I don’t know about that. The bottom line is I believe in freedom speech and equal protection under law.”


Yet to come

If the parties to Reddy v. Foster were waiting to see what legislators would do with the repeal bill, they can stop waiting.

The buffer zone is still on the books, and barring a change of heart from one senator, the repeal bill is dead. It could be taken up again anytime before the Senate adjourns in June, but I saw no signs of a wavering vote at Wednesday’s session. No one will move to take the bill off the table unless one side or the other lines up a thirteenth vote.

My day ends with questions: will abortion providers go ahead and post signs delineating buffer zones? Will Governor Hassan and Attorney General Foster give the go-ahead to county attorneys to proceed with enforcement? Will the federal judge hearing the case schedule a hearing soon? Will laws against trespassing, disorderly conduct, criminal threatening, and even parking violations ever be enforced in an attempt to control the problems cited by buffer zone supporters? Will buffer zone fans be content to have a law on the books that remains unenforced?

I’m sure the answer to the last one is a firm no. As to the rest, I have no idea.

 

 

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Ellen KolbMay 14, 2015Leave a comment

Encore: Gosnell taught us nothing

This is an encore post from two years ago today, May 14, 2013. Kermit Gosnell had just been convicted of three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter committed in the course of his work as an abortionist. What did we learn from that? Today, two years after I wrote this post, New Hampshire law has not budged from what I describe here. 

hashtag-gosnell (1024x355) (800x277)Where is New Hampshire, now that the odious Dr. Gosnell awaits sentencing in Pennsylvania? In the dark, mostly. Legislators can change this, although some mighty citizen action might be needed to get the ball rolling. We don’t know how many women choose abortion in New Hampshire. (The Guttmacher/CDC stats are atrocious substitutes for data, relying as they do on voluntary reporting by a limited number of abortion providers.) We don’t know why they choose abortion. We don’t know how many abortions are “early” or “late-term.” We don’t know what the medical protocols are for born-alive babies after attempted abortion. We have no clue whatsoever what is the rate of post-abortion complications for women. We don’t know who’s doing abortions. There is no restriction on who may perform abortion. (None.) We are assured at public hearings that abortion facilities are “licensed,” whatever that means, without being held to the same standards as any other outpatient-surgery facility.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s negligence on the part of policymakers and public health officials. Time for transparency and serious oversight of the abortion industry. Even a defender of Roe should be able to see that.

Gosnell was operating legally. Don’t overlook that while you’re plowing through the public statements by PP and NARAL since yesterday’s conviction. We can all be appalled about what Gosnell did, and we can all be outraged by the way he and his staff treated women, and we can be outraged by the snipping of born-alive-babies’ necks (although that particular outrage was not expressed universally yesterday). Through it all, remember: he was operating legally, according to the state of Pennsylvania. His butchery was discovered by accident. Despite state policies and abortion regulations, no Pennsylvania official kept Gosnell in line because no Pennsylvania official wanted to look.

What do you want to bet that if Gosnell HAD been inspected, fellow abortion providers would have cried “intimidation!” at the first peep from the inspectors?

And if only Gosnell hadn’t been such a ghoul about keeping babies’ corpses and body parts, he would very likely have escaped prosecution on the premeditated-murder charges.  If the only evidence of the murder of children had been testimony by Gosnell’s staff, his attorneys would have had a field day impeaching those witnesses. The attorneys tried that anyway, even with the sickening physical evidence.

Which brings me to the sobering thought: how many children survive attempted abortion and are born alive? We don’t know. What’s the medical protocol for dealing with “the dreaded complication” of a live birth? It may vary from one facility to another. A law on mandatory statistics, even a law with teeth, may be unable to get at that. The medical profession might have too great a stake in Roe to want those children out in the open. In Gosnell’s case, only when outsiders got a look at the corpses did the story come out. That was an off-chance.

I have already seen in some of the Gosnell coverage that some news outlets refer to the dead babies as “fetuses,” despite the fact that they had emerged from the mothers’ bodies. Three convictions for premeditated murder might not settle the issue. This question comes up again and again as I cover the right to life: does getting an abortion entitle a woman to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? No, this is not a matter between “a woman, her family, and her doctor,” as the saying goes – at least I don’t think it is. Will an abortion provider even have to note that a baby was born alive, if the mother is undergoing an abortion? Not unless the “protocols” say so.  After all, if the fetus isn’t “born,” it’s not a person, and homicide laws would not apply. Was that Gosnell’s rationalization for snipping the infants’ spinal cords?

This wouldn’t be the first time Roe made a hash of science. Still think pregnancy begins at conception? Union of sperm and egg? How very seventies of you. Implantation: that’s the ticket. Presto: “emergency contraception” has been declared non-abortive, along with anything else that inhibits implantation. Justice Blackmun would be proud. He was  afraid when he wrote Roe that medical science might declare when life begins, thus undermining the whole “trimester” framework. Not to worry. Medical science has its finger to the political winds.

The “providers” are not likely to come forward about their own acts, if they are “terminating” abortion survivors. It will be left to the witnesses, allied health professionals, to testify to what they see.

Medical protocols will not come to light readily. Ask New Hampshire Right to Life what it takes to get Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to turn over its medical operations manual. (More about that another time.)

Don’t think that serious regulation will come easily. NARAL, PP, and their apologists blame pro-lifers for Gosnell. Seriously. Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations are to blame, they say.

Really?

Did a 24-hour waiting period, required under Pennsylvania law, kill Karnamaya Mongar? No. Kermit Gosnell did. The drug overdose that killed her was not forced on her by any 24-hour wait. “Involuntary manslaughter,” said the jury. Her family is taking civil action against Gosnell. Good luck to them.

Did a ban on abortions post-24-weeks “force” women to Gosnell? No. By the way, Gosnell operated with the knowledge of other abortion providers in the area, including PP of Southeastern Pennsylvania. If anyone from that PP office had concerns about Gosnell doing late-term work, she didn’t advise anyone at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Hmmm.

Did Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations cause all the carnage? No. There is plenty of blame to go around, but not to the people who fought for the regulations, even if they only exist on paper as abortion providers would prefer. Republican former Governor Tom Ridge discontinued regular inspections of abortion facilities. Workers at Gosnell‘s facility kept quiet for years. Medical providers who found themselves taking care of women harmed at the Gosnell facility did not make enough of a fuss for health authorities to take notice.

Gosnell’s crimes did not consist principally in the filth of his office. If he had kept a clean place, the snipped babies would still be dead. We’d just be less likely to know about them. A tidy facility wouldn’t have helped Karnamaya Mongar survive a drug overdose. Declaring Gosnell an outlier, as abortion advocates have done, means nothing if it is only an admonition to maintain good housekeeping.

So much room for improvement, for the women, for their children. Until New Hampshire moves past housekeeping concerns and deals with abortion itself, Gosnell has taught us nothing.