There was a small announcement in this week’s New Hampshire House calendar:
Who knew what to expect? I went to Concord to see for myself to see if this effort could get off the ground.
I needn’t have worried. After a late start due an earlier meeting running longer than expected, the double-sized hearing room began to fill up. Rep. Kathy Souza of Manchester and Rep. Kurt Wuelper of Strafford welcomed colleagues as they arrived. Representatives could pick up Precious Feet pins and March for Life flyers on the way to their seats. The atmosphere was upbeat and collegial.
So yes, there is a pro-life caucus in the New Hampshire House. It’s a bipartisan group. Seven of New Hampshire’s ten counties were represented at this morning’s meeting. Experienced legislators are participating along with first-termers.
Of the many familiar faces in the room – including two legislators from my home town – I was particularly gratified to see Rep. Sue DeLemus of Rochester. She served as a state rep in 2011-12, testifying powerfully on life-issue bills as a post-abortive woman. After losing her seat in 2012, she regained it last November. She never, never puts up with the word “choice” when the speaker means “abortion.” During a pro-life rally in the 2014 campaign, she told voters “I have a very personal connection with the right to life, because I had an abortion. There is no one in this House who can testify the way I can.”
Before the meeting began, I asked Rep. Souza if House leadership had said anything about dealing with social issues. “The message that’s going out is ‘these are the issues,’ and social issues are not on the list. We’re not getting the message that we’re not doing them, but we’re not getting the message that we are doing them, either.”
“There are a lot of good [life-issue] bills in,” she continued. “We want everyone to know that these bills are out there.” A partial list: buffer zone repeal, abortion statistics, fetal homicide (two versions, yet to be reconciled), a ban on post-viability abortions.
(My own fearless forecast: when the post-viability bill comes up, abortion advocates will make two simultaneous and contradictory claims: “no such abortions are done in New Hampshire” and “this bill endangers New Hampshire women’s health.” You heard it here first.)
“We have to acknowledge the environment we’re in,” said Rep. Wuelper. That environment includes not only a leadership agenda from which the life issues are absent but also a governor so adamantly pro-abortion that she signed a buffer zone law days after the U.S. Supreme Court found a nearly-identical law unconstitutional.
As of this week, that environment also includes a group of reps standing together to say they’re not waiting to be given permission to work towards good public policy on the life issues.
Rep. Souza sees promise in an abortion statistics bill, given the recommendations of a 2014 study committee. “[Right now] we don’t know to whom [abortions] are happening, where they’re happening, or why they’re happening. Is [a certain county] having a disproportionate number of abortions? Where do we need to put pregnancy care centers?”
“I think that one of the things that’s been lacking in the pro-life movement is organization,” said Rep. Wuelper. “Here, we can strategize and work together to advance the cause of life. That’s what this is all about.”
I wish these legislators well. They’re off to a good start.
[Original post updated 9:00 a.m.]