N.H. House Committee Rejects Buffer Zone Repeal Bill

On a vote of 14-4, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) today on HB 124, which seeks to repeal the buffer zone law. The full House will take up the bill at a date yet to be determined.

The law, written to give abortion facility managers authority to restrict public access to public areas, has never been used since its passage in 2014. Its clear incompatibility with the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCullen decision might be the reason. Only the abortion facility managers know for sure.

All Democrats on the committee were joined by Republicans Edward Gordon (R-Bristol) and Joe Alexander (R-Goffstown) in voting to kill the repeal effort. Voting against the ITL motion were Republicans Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford), Gary Hopper (R-Weare), Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown), and Mark McLean (R-Manchester).

“For me, it comes down to a free speech issue,” said Rep. McLean. “No clinic throughout the state has actually put [the buffer zone’s] provisions into play.”

Rep. Wuelper, the bill’s chief sponsor, told his colleagues before the vote, “[The buffer zone law’s] very intent is to restrict speech and religion in a public space based on the content of speech. [The law] hasn’t done any good in five years. It won’t do any good in 50 years.”

Not so, countered Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland). “Perhaps it’s had a salutary effect,” he said. “The facts that were present [when the law was passed] have not changed.” He’s right about that much: McCullen was present when the law was passed and it’s still binding precedent. Rep. Berch also said, “The law was drafted and passed after the Supreme Court decision [in McCullen].” He may have forgotten that the buffer zone law was drafted no later than the opening of the legislative session in January 2014, while the McCullen decision came down in June of that year.

“This is a church-state issue,” added Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), saying he had documentation that one particular religious entity, the Catholic Church, opposed the buffer zone. “I am a Roman Catholic myself.” His one-religion claim probably comes as a surprise to people like Rev. Don Colageo of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester, who has frequently led prayer vigils at an area abortion site. Further, said Rep. Horrigan, “There isn’t a First Amendment right to provide counseling or advocacy if you’re not licensed.”

The ITL motion was made by Rep. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) and seconded by Rep. Sandra Keans (D-Rochester.)

Because This Isn’t Settled

The team at the national March for Life has invited people to post their own reasons for marching for life, using the hashtag #whywemarch. Check that out on Twitter and you’ll find some good material. Here’s my contribution, recorded in Concord just before the New Hampshire March for Life on January 12.

https://leavenfortheloaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WhyWeMarch2019.mov

Why do I march? To let my elected officials close to home and in Washington know that debates over the right to life aren’t settled and aren’t over. We have work to do and we’ll keep at it.

The New Hampshire march took place under a beautiful blue sky on a 15° day. Afterward came the customary post-march gathering on South Main Street, where volunteers from Christ the King Parish had wonderful soups and sandwiches for everyone. Keynote speaker at the gathering was Neil Hubacker, whom I know through my work as a communications consultant with Cornerstone Action. I loved his theme of “Meeting the Unexplainable with the Unexpected,” illustrated by examples of New Hampshire people doing low-key things in pro-life ministry that are making a difference in people’s lives even if the headlines aren’t there. Encouraging stuff!

Photos & video by Ellen Kolb

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Buffer zone repeal, 2019: hearing Jan. 9

Nine New Hampshire state representatives led by Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) are sponsoring HB 124, a bill to repeal the state’s so-called “buffer zone” law. That law is an anti-First-Amendment measure targeting peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. The public hearing on HB 124 is scheduled for Wednesday, January 9, in the House Judiciary Committee at 1:00 p.m. in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation to the full House regarding the bill on January 15.

Options for registering your opinion on the bill:

  • Attend the hearing. At that time you may deliver your testimony (speaking) to the committee, deliver written testimony with or without speaking, or simply sign the bill’s “blue sheet” (which will be available near the door of the committee room) to check off a box indicating support for the bill.
  • Email the committee. The Judiciary Committee page on the House web site does not currently provide a committee address, but if you email chief sponsor Rep. Wuelper at kurt.wuelper@leg.state.nh.us, he can forward your message to his colleagues. Subject line: YES on HB 124.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was passed in 2014, but has never been used. It authorizes abortion facility managers to determine where and when peaceful pro-life witnesses may occupy public property near abortion facilities. Maggie Hassan, then serving as Governor, signed the law despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had only days before ruled a similar Massachusetts law to be unconstitutional (McCullen v. Coakley).

For background, you can consult the dedicated page compiling this blog’s reports on the buffer zone issue.


Text of HB 124 as introduced:

AN ACT repealing the law relative to the buffer zones to reproductive health care facilities.

1. Statement of Findings and Purpose.
I. The general court hereby finds that:

(a) The exercise of a person’s right to free speech is a First Amendment activity, the protection of which is paramount.

(b) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) would infringe on the free speech rights of innocent people.

(c) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81), if implemented would be subject to immediate constitutional challenge.

(d) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) has served no public purpose.

II. Therefore, the general court hereby repeals RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 because if left as law, this statute will cause the state of New Hampshire to expend considerable sums defending a law which the United States Supreme Court may find unconstitutional and which has served no public purpose.

2 Repeal. RSA 132:37-132:40, relative to access to reproductive health care facilities, are repealed.

3 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

 

Reviewing 2018, Welcoming 2019

A New Year’s toast: to life! Thank you to the readers who have sustained Leaven for the Loaf, and thank you to everyone whose pro-life work has kept me inspired and challenged all along the way. Join me now as I pack away some artifacts of the year just ended.

The Posts

It’s a mixed bag of topics for the most-viewed posts of 2018.

  1. CareNet: John Oliver Gets It Wrong About Pregnancy Centers. When a late-night TV personality used his platform to criticize pro-life pregnancy care centers, CareNet’s CEO wasted no time setting him straight, with a video offering a positive response to a hostile report.
  2. Gallery: New Hampshire March for Life 2018. Speaker Jennifer Christie of Save the 1 shared her powerful story. March for Life, Concord, New Hampshire
  3. Gosnell: Film Review. In the hands of an inept screenwriter or the wrong director, this true-crime story could have gone badly awry.  The makers of Gosnell got it right. The film will be coming to on-demand video and DVD in early 2019.
  4. But Wait, There’s More. This was a brief report on an ill-advised bill that would have nullified New Hampshire’s parental notification law. The House later killed the bill.
  5. Rep. Jeanine Notter
    Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), sponsor of informed consent bill (HB 1707). Facebook photo.

    Trust Women, You Say? Start Here. Coverage of January’s hearing on a bill, HB 1707, that would have established comprehensive informed consent requirements for abortion.

  6. A Genteel Rant on Party Unity. In which I’m reminded (yet again) that political-party-linked activism is not always helpful in building a culture of life.
  7. Abortion Statistics: “Inexpedient to Legislate.” “Two hundred [N.H.] legislators voted like people who are afraid of evidence-based public health policy and afraid of political retribution from abortion providers.” Another statistics bill has been introduced for 2019.
  8. Slamming Shut a Doorway to Assisted Suicide. A state senator let slip that her proposed study committee on end-of-life issues was actually a path to an assisted suicide law. Her fellow senators took her at her word and killed her bill. A similar bill is on the way for the coming legislative session.
  9. Why I’m Voting No on Question 2. A ballot question about adding a “privacy” amendment to the state constitution passed, not long after I posted this cautionary message. Time will tell if my concerns had merit.
  10. Do Not Accept Anything As The Truth If It Lacks Love.” Wise words from St. Teresa Benedicta.from @USCCBFreedom

The Events

I reported from the state and national Marches for Life in 2018, and I plan to do the same in 2019. On January 12, less than two weeks from now, you can attend any portion of the day-long program of events that accompany the march in Concord. The March for Life in Washington will be held the following Friday, January 18.

Pro-life sign at March for Life in Washington.
“Life Chooses Us.” March for Life, Washington D.C., January 2018.

2018 brought two more 40 Days for Life campaigns. The next one is coming up in a little over a month, and you’ll be hearing more from me about that in the coming days.

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Ellen at PLWC 2018

I went to St. Louis, Missouri for the third annual Pro-Life Women’s Conference last June. The first PLWC in 2016 was organized by Abby Johnson and the team at And Then There Were None. Since then, the conference has grown to include a diverse group of speakers and attendees guaranteed to broaden the horizons of anyone working in the pro-life movement. For just one example, read the message from one of this year’s featured speakers, Savannah Marten: “We find the tables we need to be sitting at.”

The next Pro-Life Women’s Conference is scheduled for June 2019 in New Orleans. I’m already saving my pennies for it. Check out the event’s web site; you might want to make the trip, too.

Best Short Video: “Desperate Measures”

For media in 2018, the Gosnell film is in a class by itself. For short video, I was glad to find and share “Desperate Measures” by Sidewalk Advocates for Life.  Featuring former abortion workers who are now committed pro-lifers, the video is a direct response to recent sit-ins and “rescues” at abortion facilities. The message is don’t do it – and here’s the better way to carry out peaceful pro-life witness. 

Looking Ahead

I’ll be back at the State House to report on 2019 legislation including buffer zone repeal, abortion statistics, and death penalty repeal. I’ll venture to claim that since 2012, no other New Hampshire blog has covered life-issue bills in Concord to the extent attempted by this little enterprise called Leaven for the Loaf. I aim to keep it going.

When my travels lead me to inspirational people and places, you’ll hear about them.

Over a year ago, I had intended to publish an anthology of Leaven posts – and I’m glad I didn’t! The manuscript was not ready for prime time. In 2019, on a much more modest scale than first envisioned, the anthology will be ready.

As longtime readers will have noticed, Facebook and Twitter became significant extensions of the blog in 2018, especially during coverage of marches and conferences. If you’re not following those social media feeds yet, I invite you to do so.

The New Year is here. Let’s make the most of it.