An Alternative Pilgrimage

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester has released Pilgrims for Life: a digital guide for prayer and advocacy, which “offers ideas and resources for us to continue our strong, Pro-Life advocacy even though we won’t be boarding busses [sic] to D.C. this coming January.”

Some of us have wondered whether COVID concerns might affect diocesan-sponsored transportation to the January March for Life in Washington DC. Now we know. I’m a little sad, but not surprised. I’ve been on some of those diocesan pilgrimages to past Marches, and “social distancing” is at best an amusing notion in that environment.

The March goes on

The national March for Life itself is still scheduled for January 29, 2021, regardless of how scarce bus transportation might be. The Roe v. Wade decision will be 48 years old on January 22, and it still needs to be challenged socially as well as judicially. There’s no word yet about New Hampshire’s own 2021 pro-life rally and march in Concord, which is usually scheduled and managed by New Hampshire Right to Life independent of the national event.

While the annual diocesan bus caravan has always carried hundreds of people to the national March, it’s not the only way to get to Washington. Some faith communities arrange their own bus or carpool. I’ve taken the train from Boston to Washington, overnight both ways. I’ve flown down and back in a day, when I’ve found deep-discount airfares. There’s always I-95. If you want to get to the March for Life, you have options.

Pray, Advocate, Unite

The Pilgrims for Life program is not a virtual march. (I like it already.) It is intended to be an ongoing program of prayer, advocacy, and unity leading up to the March, to “build up a culture of life in New Hampshire and beyond.” To summarize briefly the 13-page guide:

Prayer will include special services at churches throughout the diocese in mid to late January.

Advocacy includes taking action on relevant public policy issues, including life-issue bills in Concord.

Unity – “unit[ing] our intentions, prayers, and actions around the same cause” – includes a suggestion to take the money one would otherwise have spent on a trip to Washington and donating it instead to a pro-life cause. I love that idea. A DC trip for me, even a one-day down-and-back sprint, is easily $200. That includes a couple of bucks for an indispensable hot pretzel purchased from a vendor on the National Mall. (I travel in style.)

The guide has many more ideas for your consideration.

What’s your plan?

If your own church or community group decides to head down to the March, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experience. If you typically make the trip but decide to forgo it in 2021, I’d like to know if you decide to participate in a local effort instead.

I still haven’t decided on whether to travel to Washington for the March. It is an extraordinary opportunity to meet and learn from people from different backgrounds with different pro-life ministries. If I go, I’ll cover it for my readers as usual. If I skip the trip, I’m confident there will be plenty to write about here at home.

For more information: Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, Respect Life and Pilgrims for Life

On Judge Barrett

As one Catholic woman to another, I send my best wishes to Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the U.S. Senate votes on her nomination to the Supreme Court. 

I don’t know how she’d vote on a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and neither do you. Even so, I think every objection to her nomination comes down to one thing: the possibility that she might have even the teensiest reservation about abortion. Any objections to her faith I’ve encountered are all about that. It’s not that she’s Catholic; it’s that she might take Catholic teaching on the nature of abortion and conscience rights seriously.

That’s “might.” One may hope.

Read the rest of the post at ellenkolb.com.

The attack ad told me to check the facts – so I did

(I wrote this essay for Cornerstone, which has kindly given me permission to re-post here.)

I am an “undeclared” voter, in the parlance of my state’s election laws, which means I’m not registered with any political party. I get a hefty pile of political ads in the mail every day during election season, as both major parties try to win my vote. Check the facts, they urge me.

I recently got a mailer from the state Democrat party attacking a state senate candidate, Gary Daniels, who happens to be a friend of mine. The mailer informed me that Daniels was coming to take away my reproductive rights.

No wonder “check the facts” is in the tiniest print.

I know the candidate and his voting record, so I was skeptical of the mailer right off the bat. But right there in tiny print on the front was that challenge: check the facts.

Fact number one: the first claim printed on the mailer cited a “vote” that Daniels never cast. He was not a member of the legislature at the time the bill in question was introduced.

“Opposes reproductive health care”

The footnote to the claim that Daniels “opposes reproductive health care” points to HB 685 (2020). Gary Daniels, while he is a former senator, was not in office in 2020. The incumbent in that seat is Shannon Chandley, whose party is responsible for the false claim that Daniels voted on HB 685.

Chandley voted in favor of the bill. That is not to her credit.

HB 685 was an abortion insurance mandate. It was not about reproductive health care. It was about violating the conscience rights of people who would rather not be involved in abortion, even tangentially, by providing insurance for it. It was about equating abortion with maternity care. As the Governor pointed out in his veto message, it was also about violating the federal Weldon Amendment, which would have cost the state millions of dollars in federal funds for human services programs in New Hampshire.

(The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funds from going to states that discriminate against any health care entity which does not pay for or provide coverage for abortions.)

A vote for HB 685 doesn’t look to me like support for health care. Instead, it looks like respect for conscience rights.

“Opposes doctor-patient confidentiality”

The mailer goes on to proclaim that Daniels “opposes doctor-patient confidentiality.” Another footnote, this one for HB 629 (2016).

HB 629 was an abortion statistics bill. Not only was it written to protect patient confidentiality, but it contained language to protect provider identity as well. That was how the bill made it through the House on a voice vote, before it was tabled in the Senate after an effort to pass it failed on a 12-12 vote.

I participated as a representative of a policy group, Cornerstone Action, in every hearing and work session between the time the bill was introduced in January 2015 until it died on the table in the state senate in May 2016. I know how great a role confidentiality played in the lengthy negotiations.

To say that support for abortion statistics is “opposition to doctor-patient confidentiality” is a lie. Period.

“Opposes access to contraception”

The footnote to the third claim on the anti-Daniels mailer (“opposes access to contraception”) takes us all the way back to a 2015 bill, SB 42, “relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage” in employer-provided health insurance. This was an attempt to hang a scarlet letter on companies that were exempt from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

This bill was so poorly received in the state senate that it was tabled and killed on a voice vote. It never even made it over to the House.

The only roll call vote on the bill was on a proposed amendment that was rejected on a 12-12 tie. Daniels voted against the proposed amendment because he understood the underlying bill.

That’s it. There’s no truth that the vote on SB 42 was about “access to contraception.” No one’s access to contraception was at issue. This bill was all about annoyance with the Supreme Court and with anyone who objected to the contraceptive mandate.

Now, more than ever…

In bold print, the mailer from the state Democrat party tells me that “now, more than ever, we need to come together to protect state level reproductive health.”

Let me fix that for them.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to respect each other’s rights of conscience.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to put women’s health ahead of politics, and start reporting abortion statistics including maternal morbidity and mortality. Forty-seven other states have figured out how to do that with aggregate data that protects patient confidentiality.

Now, more than ever, we need to reclaim the authentic meaning of rights and health.

And while we’re at it: now, more than ever, we need to call out a party when it fabricates a vote in an effort to smear a candidate. Just because there are footnotes doesn’t mean the information is accurate or reliable.

I suspect Gary Daniels is not the only candidate whose pro-life record is going to be misrepresented. Do your local candidates a favor: if you hear an accusation about “opposing contraception” or “opposing doctor-patient confidentiality,” call for documentation. If what you get in reply are references to HB 685, HB 629, and SB 42, now you know what they really mean.

The party that created that mailer will have to find another way to attract my vote.

Header photo: Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Down-ballot: where the action is

Maybe you plan to vote by absentee ballot. Maybe you’re holding out for the big national election day on November 3. Either way, this one’s for you: pay attention to down-ballot races. Four hundred state representative seats and 24 Senate seats need to be filled. Don’t let anyone else make your choices for you.

I carry no brief for anyone at the top of a party’s ticket. I care deeply, though, about what our state legislature is going to look like. To that end, I offer some thoughts.

How to vote

There are two and only two authoritative sources for information on ballots and voting procedure: your town or city clerk, and the elections division of The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.

That’s it. Never mind what else someone tells you on Facebook.

Absentee balloting is allowed for COVID concerns. The people who say “if you can go to the grocery store, you can show up to vote” are not the ones who made the law. If they have a problem, they can take it up with the Secretary of State.

Your town or city clerk has the most up-to-date information from the Secretary of State about all election law. The clerk will have a sample ballot, an absentee ballot application and the ballot itself, and information about hours and location for polling on Election Day.

If you have not voted yet, whether you’re planning to vote in person or absentee, the number one thing on your to-do list needs to be get a sample ballot. (Ask your town clerk, or download one from the Secretary of State’s website.) That’s the only way you’ll know who’s on the ballot for all those races below President and Governor.

Know the candidates

We’re getting down to the wire here. There’s not much time to meet your candidates if you don’t know them already. Make the effort, by looking up their information online if not by speaking to them directly. Social media pages and candidates’ own websites can provide useful information.

Are there pro-life candidates?

Some candidates will tell you they’re pro-life, which is always nice to hear, and they’d better be able to back it up. There are incumbent representatives and senators who have already put their beliefs on display.

For the 2019-20 session, state legislators voted on legislation to protect children who survive attempted abortion. (Majority vote: no.) They voted on abortion statistics and on removing the unenforceable buffer zone statute. (Majority vote: no.) They decided whether or not to support Governor Sununu’s veto of a measure to mandate abortion coverage in some health insurance policies. (Yes, because an override needed a two-thirds majority.)

Down-ballot races put each of those people in office.

Hold them accountable.

“All Democrats are alike,” you might sniff. Democrats for Life sees it differently. They found one Democrat to endorse in New Hampshire, Cam Iannalfo, running for state rep in Salem, Rockingham district 8.

“All Republicans are alike,” you might think hopefully. Get over it. Look up their votes.

These earlier posts contain links to the relevant votes.

Where your reps stand: votes 2019-20

Veto sustained on abortion insurance mandate

President signs executive order to protect vulnerable newborns

President Donald Trump on September 25 issued “Executive Order on protecting vulnerable newborn and infant children.” The order ties federal funds disbursed by the Department of Health and Human Services to compliance by health care providers with certain federal laws.

The order states, “It is the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.”

The order refers to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (a statute affirming rights for people with disabilities), and the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. “The [HHS] Secretary shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, ensure that Federal funding disbursed by the Department of Health and Human Services is expended in full compliance with EMTALA and section 504 of the Rehab Act, as interpreted consistent with the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act…”

Text of executive order

Commentary on the order, by bioethicist Wesley J. Smith: “Trump Signs Order to Save Babies Who Survive Abortion”