Ellen KolbJanuary 26, 2015Leave a comment

On this date, 1959: Dr. Jerome Lejeune publishes work linking Trisomy 21 to Down’s Syndrome

Dr. Lejeune (photo from Fondation Jérôme Lejeune)

Dr. Lejeune (photo from Fondation Jérôme Lejeune)

Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994) was a French physician whose work led to an understanding of the genetic cause of Down’s syndrome. On January 26, 1959, the French Academy of Science published the result of his research into what he called Trisomy 21.

Lejeune was strongly pro-life, and he was distressed at the subsequent use of prenatal testing to identify and abort children with Down’s syndrome. While becoming a professor of genetics, he also became an advocate for children with genetic anomalies.

A few of his quotations summarize his life and work.

Again and again we see this absolute misconception of trying to defeat a disease by eliminating the patient! It’s ridiculous to stand beside a patient and solemnly say, ‘Who is this upstart who refuses to be cured? How dare he resist our art? Let’s get rid of him!’ Medicine becomes mad science when it attacks the patient instead of fighting the disease. We must always be on the patient’s side, always.

We need to be clear: The quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members. There is no other criterion. 

The genetic makeup of a human being is complete from the moment of fertilization: Not a single scientist doubts it. What some of them want to debate is the amount of respect due to an individual based on her stage of development. If a human being is a half-inch long, does she deserve respect? If she is 20 inches long, does she deserve 40 times more? People who use years and pounds to quantify the respect due to another human being are not well intentioned.

Available from Amazon.com: a biography of Dr. Lejeune by his daughter (click on image for more information).

Photo credit: “Jérôme Lejeune” by Fondation Jérôme Lejeune – Fondation Jérôme Lejeune. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J%C3%A9r%C3%B4me_Lejeune.TIF#mediaviewer/File:J%C3%A9r%C3%B4me_Lejeune.TIF

Ellen KolbJanuary 25, 2015

Why Catherine Adair is aces in my book: “No person is beyond redemption”

Catherine on State House Plaza, defying the chill: “Embrace every life there is.”

This is a fan letter. It’s my blog and I can rant or rave however I want. Today, it’s rave. It’s my thank-you to Catherine Adair. She has a life full of blessings; she and her husband are rearing five children. My husband and I brought up five children, too, and we know that’s a pro-life ministry in itself (and it never ends). Catherine, with support from her family, goes above and beyond. She has a story to tell about her own experiences and about women in crisis who didn’t get the help they needed. Her story is also about pro-life conversion.

Catherine came to pro-life commitment by a route different from mine. I’ve learned from that. She makes me think in fresh ways about what it means and takes to be pro-life.

About Catherine: New Hampshire Right to Life scored a coup this year by bringing Massachusetts neighbor Catherine to Concord for the state’s biggest annual outdoor pro-life rally and march. Catherine’s description of herself, from her blog The Harvest is Abundant: “I used to be pro-choice and worked for Planned Parenthood. Now I speak about the horror of working in an abortion clinic, and my personal experience with abortion. I hope to be able to bring more people to the truth.” She does that with charity and clarity, which can be hard to come by some days in the pro-life movement. She speaks out knowing that she could perfectly well say “enough already” to public witness. But she persists, bringing not just truth but also encouragement to her listeners.

l-r: Ellen Kolb, Shannon McGinley, Catherine Adair after 2011 press conference (photo courtesy Cornerstone Policy Research)

l-r: Ellen Kolb, Shannon McGinley, Catherine Adair after 2011 press conference (photo courtesy Cornerstone Policy Research)

How I met her:  For a brief time a few years ago, a majority of New Hampshire Executive Councilors thought that with ten other Title X providers in the state, they could afford to say no to a contract with the eleventh provider – which happened to be Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, New Hampshire’s #1 abortion provider. All political hell broke loose. I helped organize a press conference to stand up for one of the Councilors who voted against the PP contract and who was being targeted for particular abuse by PP supporters. A colleague of mine, Shannon McGinley, called me up to discuss arrangements. She said, “You’re not going to believe this. There’s a woman from Massachusetts who used to work for PP and wants to come help.” It was Catherine. So how did Shannon meet her? “You’re not going to believe this” (again) – “I came across her on Facebook.” Well, God bless Facebook.

Catherine’s presence at the podium turned out to be the most powerful and memorable part of the press conference. Her words about her time at PP made the idea of “abortion provider” into something concrete. She spoke with authority about the primacy of abortion in PP’s work despite PP’s insistence that abortion is only 3% of its business. She spoke briefly about her own long-ago abortion. She had nothing whatsoever to gain from making the trip to Concord. She did it because the truth mattered and because she knew some good people were suffering for challenging PP’s access to public money.

from Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally, Concord, 2012

from Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally, Concord, 2012

We meet again: When the Obama Administration and the federal Department of Health and Human Services imposed their Obamacare contraceptive mandate, they did so knowing that some Americans have religiously-based objections to helping pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Too bad, said the President and his HHS Secretary. In over a hundred cities nationwide, Americans responded with religious freedom rallies to say “not so fast.” I was one of many New Hampshire residents who gathered outside the federal courthouse in Concord for a Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally. And who came to stand with us? None other than Catherine, with her family. Again, she had nothing to gain by doing this. She came anyway.

Taking it to D.C.: This year, Catherine traveled to the March for Life in Washington and did something extraordinary: with support from other post-abortive women and former abortion workers, she gave her testimony in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s hardly her natural habitat, but there she was. Abortion advocates are always on the sidewalk in front of the Court on the day of the March, as if to defend the judicial branch from exposure to pro-lifers. Catherine was speaking to the abortion advocates as well as to the marchers. Her message is for all.

From Facebook: Catherine Adair with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, 22 January 2015

From Facebook: Catherine Adair with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, outside the U.S. Supreme Court building 22 January 2015

All I can say about that is that while she’s hit the big time, New Hampshire saw her first. Well, maybe second, after Massachusetts.

Excerpts from her remarks at New Hampshire’s March for Life

As a former abortion worker, what does she recommend to pro-lifers who encounter workers at abortion facilities? “The worst thing we can do is be confrontational, antagonistic. I think the best thing we can do is smile, say hello – just be that peaceful, kind, loving presence they need. Please, pray for the people working in the clinic. Nobody is beyond redemption. Nobody is beyond conversion. Embrace every life there is, wherever it is.”

On her own abortion and its immediate aftermath: “If someone had been there [on the sidewalk] the day I was there, if I’d had the courage to talk to somebody, maybe I’d have made a different decision. You just never know how what you’ll say will affect somebody.”

On working at Planned Parenthood in Boston: “[At first] I thought ‘oh, that’s great. Planned Parenthood is really pro-woman.’ …All we did was abortions, all day every day, Monday through Saturday….The first thing – the first thing – that happens in an abortion clinic is the money changes hands. You’re not getting anywhere until you pay for that abortion….I would describe the abortion procedure to the woman: ‘the doctor will gently extract the contents of your uterus.’ That’s it, because in abortion clinics you never talk about the humanity of the child. It’s all about dehumanizing the child. We didn’t even say ‘embryo.’ That’s too close to ‘fetus’ which is a little too close to ‘baby.'”

“…Nowhere in there did we ever talk about real options for her. What brought you into the clinic today? What’s making you think abortion is your best option? What’s going on in your life? How can we help you? Never, because my job was to sell that abortion.”

Assisting patients having first- and second-trimester abortions, and cleaning up “procedure rooms,” took a toll. “You know, I had counseled for second-trimester abortions. I had said ‘the doctor will gently extract the contents of your uterus.’ I didn’t know that he was going to go into her uterus with forceps and just grab at that baby….[I had] nightmares. Most people who work in abortion clinics do. You’d think I’d go running out of the clinic and say to the nearest person ‘D’you know what they’re doing in there? They’re killing babies!’ But I didn’t….My whole world was filled with people telling me that what I was doing was good, it was right, it was for the cause, it was pro-woman, and that all those crazy pro-lifers out there on the street wanted to kill me. And I believed it.”

Finally, she had enough of seeing abortion up close, and she left the clinic – “there’s a lot of turnover” – but becoming pro-life was a years-long process. What led to that conversion of heart and mind? “Basically, it was because I had children. I got married, I had children, and that really does change your perspective on things. My husband wanted to start going to church. He said ‘we really have to do something about the kids. I want the kids to go to Mass.’ So we went to church. And the first time we went, it was just like ‘I’m home.'”

“This wonderful priest said to me, ‘Catherine, don’t you know that God loves you?’ I just started to cry, because of course I didn’t believe that God loved me. I had murdered my own child. I had participated in the murder of thousands of children. But this priest, he told me to say the Rosary. As I prayed on the Mysteries, something just clicked for me. The grace that God can give, the forgiveness that He can give….One day at Mass, Jesus said to me, ‘Catherine, those are babies.’ Finally, the scales fell from my eyes. I was so afraid of going to that place of pain from my own abortion that I hadn’t been able to really think about it, how much each life is sacred and worth living. Finally, I was able to go to that place of pain and self-hatred and turn that into love. I look at my children, the children God has given me, and I am so grateful.”

It’s that love and gratitude of which Catherine speaks that really touches me. She gives me hope that even when I’m not feeling loving and grateful, even when I’m discouraged or angry over something politically life-related, even when I’m praying outside a facility and feeling very awkward, the choice to love and to be grateful is always there for me to make. Pro-life work is not about what I’m feeling. Anger isn’t final. Awkward isn’t forever. Spiritual exhaustion isn’t terminal.

Catherine has never scolded me for not being steadfast enough, although she could if she wanted to. She has never preached at me. She could (and possibly should) tell me to back away from the mic or the keyboard and just do something else. Instead, she’s set me an example of honesty and compassion. Rely on the grace of God, choose love, choose gratitude, even when it’s not easy: if she does it, maybe I can, too. Maybe.

Her final words in Concord echoed what she had said to us before the march. “Honestly, seeing everybody walking in front of the clinic with love in your heart really gives me strength and makes me realize that no person is beyond God’s love. No person is beyond redemption. Nobody. This is why they fear you – because you expose the lies. That’s why they have to say ‘oh, you hate women’ – because they don’t know what to do with that love.”


Ellen KolbJanuary 22, 20151 Comment

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.



Ellen KolbJanuary 20, 2015Leave a comment

Busy day in Concord starts with end-of-life bill

End-of-life; smoothing the way for telemed abortions; making oral contraceptives available over the counter (and maybe undercutting the HHS mandate on the way); demanding transparency from insurers: welcome to Tuesday at the State House in Concord. Hearings will begin this morning on these bills.

HB 151:  establishing a committee to study end-of-life decisions

In 2013, Governor John Lynch vetoed a bill to set up a committee to study “end-of-life decisions.” The bill had originated as a straight-up assisted suicide bill before being amended into what the sponsor hoped would be a noncontroversial baby step forward. I noted at the time that Rep. Robert Rowe was not fooled. He spoke to his colleagues briefly and forcefully during the floor debate, saying “The total thrust of this bill is euthanasia.”

New session, new sponsor: House Bill 151 has been brought forward by Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene). The bill has no co-sponsors at this time. Rep. Phillips wants to commission six state representatives and one state senator to study end-of-life decisions, with the bill to become effective upon passage and a committee report due November 1.

The committee, should it be formed, would be tasked with (but not limited to) “investigating the positive and negative effects of legislation in states that have enacted aid in dying laws, innovation practices of other states, specifically Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California, how to encourage careful and responsible deliberation about this complex and emotional issue, and any other matter the committee deems relevant to its objective.

Rep. Rowe had it right in 2013. His words are just as apt now.

SB 36: making oral contraceptives available without a prescription

This one comes from Senator Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford). Interesting. I had two thoughts when I heard about this bill: Culturally, it’s wretched. Politically, it has one potential good effect: it could weaken the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

If oral contraceptives are available without a prescription – behind the counter, under the terms of Sen. Sanborn’s bill, rather than over the counter – they won’t be covered under anyone’s health insurance prescription drug plan. Anyone wanting to consume an oral contraceptive would pay for it herself, or receive it under a Title X family planning subsidy. That’s how things stood before August 2012, when the creaking leviathan known as Obamacare began imposing what was then known as the HHS mandate.

Obamacare classifies suppression of female fertility as a public-health priority, to the extent of treating it as “preventive care.” We are all therefore mandated to pay for it in our health insurance plans, and most business owners are required to include it in any health insurance plan offered to employees, irrespective of religious beliefs about the immorality of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. Remember, the Hobby Lobby case was very narrow. Many other Americans are still in court defending their right not to pay for someone else’s contraception.)

If SB 36 were to pass, it wouldn’t affect shots or implants or IUDs. The contraceptive mandate would still exist, as long as there’s public policy in place that treats women’s fertility as something to be prevented. Title X would still exist, with tax-funded block grants going to states for “family planning” excluding surgical abortion.

I wonder what non-prescription birth control pills would mean for agencies like Planned Parenthood. Is it safe to assume that the cost of the drugs would go down, if they were available without prescription? Would the agencies pass on those savings to clients? Would they not need quite so much Title X money to do the same job they’re doing now? Or would the agencies shift to a medical model relying more on implanted drugs, keeping the mandate as a cash cow?

Let’s see who shows up to testify on this one.

SB 42: relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage

If SB 42 passes, and if you’re an employer who offers health insurance as an employee benefit, you have to tell your employees about contraceptive coverage and what contraceptives might not be covered.

“Such notice shall be prominently displayed on the face of any written application for employment …[and] where such employer maintains a publicly accessible Internet webpage that provides information on prospective employment opportunities, the employer shall provide clear and conspicuous notice on the webpage as to whether the employer provides contraceptive coverage and, if so, whether such coverage includes some, but not all, contraceptive drugs and devices or their generic equivalent approved by the FDA.”

Fine. We’ll inch toward transparency in our insurance policies even if we have to rely on Hobby Lobby opponents to do it. This bill is sponsored by Senators David Pierce (D-Lebanon) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), who are fuming at the very narrow victory won at the Supreme Court by the owners of Hobby Lobby, who objected to covering four out of the twenty methods of FDA-approved contraception.

Of course, transparency isn’t the sponsors’ goal here. It’s simply a means to a couple of ends. One end is to embarrass employers who would rather stay out of their employees’ sex lives. Another is to make abortion and birth control indistinguishable and equally desirable under public policy. The owners of Hobby Lobby objected only to helping provide four methods of “birth control” that are known to induce abortions. The Supreme Court OK’d that narrow exception for that one type of business (closely-held). That’s apparently going too far, in the eyes of Senators Pierce and Clark.

SB 84, relative to the definition of “telemedicine”

Telemedicine – the use of electronic media like video conferencing for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation or treatment – is going to be extraordinarily valuable. It holds great promise for mental health treatment, among other things, and mental health treatment was the focus of a New Hampshire study committee on telemedicine. SB 84 has been drafted in the wake of the committee’s recommendations.

A New Hampshire telemedicine law will be just as useful for abortion providers who have been impatient to start dispensing abortion-inducing pills remotely. Telemed abortions are already being done elsewhere in the country. It’s neither good medicine nor good social policy to suppress telemedicine simply because abortion providers want to use it. As with SB 36, though, it’ll be interesting to see who testifies on this one.


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