“A privilege that I was not given…the right to be born”

A Congressional committee or subcommittee held a hearing this week on something called “Threats to Reproductive Rights.” Melissa Ohden was there to provide some perspective, clarity, and honest language, which is hard to come by when the day’s theme includes the words “reproductive rights.”

You see, Melissa survived an attempt to abort her. “All of these people here today had a privilege that I was not given. And that is simply: the right to be born…” 

(If the video above is not displaying, look for it on the Facebook page for the Susan B. Anthony List under “videos.”)

I’ve written about her before in this blog’s “Voices to Trust” series. She continues to write and speak about her experiences, and to bring together other abortion survivors who want to tell their stories.

Her book You Carried Me is good to read and good to share. Maybe your local library, or your Member of Congress, could use a copy.

Gosnell Was Convicted Six Years Ago, and N.H. Remains Gosnell-Friendly

May 13, 2013, Philadelphia: Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder, manslaughter, and a couple of hundred lesser offenses. He’s in prison for life. If he were released, he could set up shop in New Hampshire and commit with impunity some of the same actions for which he’s now imprisoned.

Gosnell snipped the necks of children who survived his attempts to abort them, one of whom he joked was big enough “to walk me to the bus stop.” Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who came to him for what she thought would be a safe and legal abortion, was sedated to death by the staff Gosnell was supposed to oversee, using protocols he had established to compensate for the staff’s lack of formal medical training.

The carnage was uncovered only accidentally, triggered by a 2010 drug raid at Gosnell’s “clinic,” which was a pill mill on top of its other charms. (Convictions on twelve drug offenses netted him another 30 years in prison.)

He got away with abusing women and children for a long time, because the one-time governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – a Republican named Tom Ridge, later entrusted with the Department of Homeland Security – ordered that abortion regulations not be enforced. They might have interfered with abortion access, and that was something Ridge wouldn’t countenance. Ridge’s policy prevailed for an appalling length of time.

Karnamaya Mongar isn’t around to offer her thoughts on Ridge’s defense of her rights.

New Hampshire differs from Pennsylvania in that we don’t have unenforced abortion regulations as far as we know; instead we have next-to-no regulations.

Read the rest of the post at GraniteGrok.

New Abortion Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee

“It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

Let those words roll around in your head for a moment. We’ll get back to them.

No, I’m not digging up my notes from HB 158, the abortion statistics bill killed by the New Hampshire House a few months ago. The quote that opens this post is from a hearing on another bill altogether, SB 111, on healthcare data. Having passed the state senate, SB 111 is now in the hands of the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee.

SB 111 was meant to be a housekeeping measure, revising and updating procedures for collection of various health-related data. Take a look at the fascinating NH Health WISDOM web site to get a sense of the kind of information the state tracks. SB 111 was introduced at the request of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Independently, it occurred to several people that with health care data up for discussion, DHHS’s lack of abortion data was a missing piece. Four representatives – Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), and Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead – drafted an amendment to SB 111 for the HHS committee to consider, basically adding abortion to the data covered by the bill.

That is not what DHHS had in mind. Thanks to my day job, I was present when the amendment was introduced at a subcommittee work session. I think “dismay” is the best word for the look on the faces of the DHHS staff present when they heard it.

Some of the state reps weren’t thrilled, either.

To make a long story short, the subcommittee declined to accept the amendment, and instead recommended that the bill as introduced be forwarded to the full HHS committee for a vote on May 7. When that day came, Rep. Stapleton politely brought up his proposed amendment (slightly tweaked and re-numbered since the subcommittee session). After a half hour of discussion, committee chair Rep. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole) decided to put off the vote on SB 111 and any amendments until the week of May 13.

That’s where it stands. I can say with confidence that the underlying bill is not in dispute. Any proposed amendment involving abortion statistics is another story. There are procedural objections to an amendment, but the substance is where one finds the real rub.

During the May 7 committee discussion, Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Keene) took note in the calmest of tones of what he called efforts around the country to restrict abortion. (Maybe if someone were to tell him about New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, he’d feel better.) Then came his summation about the amendment: “It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

His colleague, Rep. Susan Ticehurst, was noticeably agitated as she registered her opinion about the controversial amendment. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’re talking about data.”

Actually, we are. Abortion and data collection are not mutually exclusive. Data collection and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive, either, as SB 111 underscores: it covers many kinds of data the state has collected for years while protecting patient privacy.

Insistence on suppressing data collection regarding one condition suggests fear of what the data will show.

One rep stated that DHHS already collects abortion statistics, but I’m skeptical about that. I’m not aware of any mandatory reporting rule that has gone into effect at the freestanding facilities where most of New Hampshire’s abortions take place. (No one is seriously asserting that hospital records would tell the whole story.) Given the intense opposition from abortion-friendly reps to any suggestion that abortions be counted, I don’t believe New Hampshire makes a serious attempt at present to find out how many induced terminations of pregnancy are happening statewide.

DHHS officials needn’t lose sleep. I expect passage of SB 111, with no provision for abortion statistics. Still, I’m glad that a few representatives are willing to point out the missing piece .

Infanticide Without Representation

Want to change the stigma around infanticide? Easy: just rename it. The catch-all term “reproductive rights” will cover it. That’s the protocol that’s been adopted by my Member of Congress, at any rate.

Congressman Chris Pappas
Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH)

I recently sent an email message to Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) regarding the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. I asked him to support a discharge petition that would bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. I pointed out that the bill was about taking care of newborn children who survive attempted abortion. I said that I knew we disagreed on abortion, but surely we could find common ground on caring for infants.

What I received in return was an email from Pappas’s office about his support for reproductive rights. It was obviously a form letter, designed to address anything even remotely touching on abortion. Just one problem there: I hadn’t written to him about reproductive rights; I had written to him about caring for newborns.

Congressman Chris Pappas thinks caring for newborns is a threat to reproductive rights, if those newborns are the survivors of an attempt to kill them in utero. This is the man representing my district in Congress.

Here’s his message in full. Note well the contact information he kindly provides at the end.

Thank you for contacting me regarding reproductive rights. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me, as it helps me better represent you and New Hampshire’s priorities in Congress.

I believe that every American is afforded the right to privacy and should have the freedom to make personal decisions about their health care.  I am committed to ensuring that women have access to the full range of reproductive health care choices. As a nation, we should focus on our common ground and shared goals – educating our children on sexual health, bolstering economic opportunity, and protecting our civil liberties.

Access to proper health care should be a right, and when women are denied the freedom to make their own personal health care decisions we not only limit their liberties but also their economic opportunities. We owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to be as compassionate and understanding of their personal medical decisions as possible. Please know that I will keep your views in mind when considering legislation concerning reproductive rights.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on this important matter, and I look forward to keeping in touch. I strive to maintain an open dialogue with the people of New Hampshire about issues that matter to our state. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my Washington, DC office at (202) 225-5456 or my Dover office at (603) 285-4300. I also encourage you to keep up with the work I am doing by signing up for my weekly update at https://pappas.house.gov/contact/newsletter.

“We owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to be as compassionate and understanding of their personal medical decisions as possible.”  That sentence only makes sense in the context of the born-alive bill if you think infanticide is a “personal medical decision.” Someone else’s decision, of course; the doomed child has no voice.

“Access to proper health care should be a right…” Abortion isn’t health care, and neither is infanticide.

A change of heart is always possible, even for Members of Congress. My Congressman needs to hear from people who have enough compassion and understanding to assure him that’s it’s OK to support care for newborn children who have survived abortion.

More than once in the course of writing about life-issue legislation, I’ve asked a question: is a woman seeking abortion entitled to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? What happens when the induced abortion results not only in termination of pregnancy but in a live birth? In an uncharitable moment, I wrote that the dead-baby caucus was in charge.

I guess I was right.

In related news, the next Congressional election will be on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Your Tax Dollars At Work: $600K for PPNNE

With a nod to Cornerstone Action, and with full disclosure that I’m a Cornerstone communications consultant, let me link you to this morning’s headline from the Cornerstone blog: “Title X Grantees Announced.” Among the recipients of this federally-disbursed family planning money, with no messy intermediate stop at the New Hampshire Executive Council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

From Cornerstone’s post:

[The federal Department of Health and Human Services] has announced grant awards for Title X family planning funds for the grant period of April 1st  2019- March 31st  2020 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be the recipient of $600,000 of taxpayer money.

As you may recall, President Trump’s new rule was rumored to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars to go to organizations that promote and administer abortion as a form of birth control.

…Not satisfied with federal dollars, Planned Parenthood continues their fight to secure your state taxpayer dollars 

https://www.nhcornerstone.org/latest-news/title-x-grantees-announced/

This round of 90 family planning grants for fiscal year 2019 does include some recipients of an abortion-free persuasion who had not received Title X money before, and it includes as always a lot of federally-qualified health centers which do not perform abortions. But please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion providers have been cut out of Title X. It just ain’t so.

Quick review: Title X [that’s Roman numeral ten, not letter X] is a federal program that funds “family planning” efforts. Title X funds, while federal, are usually block-granted to states, and the states decide which contractors can most effectively carry out the Title X requirements. Abortion is explicitly excluded from Title X activity.

That’s how it’s usually (not always) done in New Hampshire, with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) receiving the federal money, then seeking bids from contractors and submitting the resulting contracts to the Executive Council for approval. It’s common for up to eleven contracts to be awarded in New Hampshire, with each contractor covering a different part of the state. Most of the contractors are federally-qualified health centers, but three are abortion providers: the Equality Center in Concord, the Lovering Center in Greenland, and PPNNE.

Each of those abortion providers solemnly swears as part of the Title X contract that none of the money will be used for abortion. That’s the extent of the firewall. To my knowledge, no one has figured out how to divvy up the money between the abortion and non-abortion use for the utilities, equipment, office space, and staffing of a facility.

Therefore, taxpayers wanting to divest completely from involvement in the abortion industry are out of luck. You’d think a $23 million agency like PPNNE could figure out a way to separate out abortion from authentic health care: separate facilities, staff, accounts. But no. You’ve got civil rights, but the right not to subsidize abortion providers isn’t on the list.

There are two New Hampshire grantees in the latest round announced by the feds: the state HHS department, which will get $800,000 for Title X, and PPNNE, which has a $600,000 grant all to itself.

from https://www.hhs.gov/opa/grants-and-funding/recent-grant-awards/index.html

The state HHS grant for Title X will go through the usual state contract bidding process, ending with an Executive Council vote that will probably hand over the money to the usual contractors. (I’m guessing a 4-1 vote, but don’t hold me to that.)

The PPNNE Title X grant, on the other hand, goes directly to PPNNE. Does that mean PPNNE won’t reach for more money from general funds in the state budget, now being drafted? Big fat “no.” Check out this Concord Monitor article from last weekend.

Don’t blame one political party over another. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. You can start by letting the President know what you think of the handouts from the federal HHS department. It’s an executive agency, and he’s Chief Executive.