Category Archives: Civil rights

Health care conscience rights: as Sweden goes…?

In November 2015, I posted the words of Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife under fire for declining to participate in abortions.

”As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost. Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life. A midwife described to me how she had held an aborted baby in her arms, still alive, and cried desperately for an hour while the baby struggled to breathe. These children do not even have a right to pain relief. I cannot take part in this.”

Ms. Grimmark went to court to get her job back. Now, a year and a half later, a Swedish court has determined that Ms. Grimmark did not suffer discrimination, nor had authorities violated her freedom of expression (BBC report here). It’s OK in Sweden to require health care professionals to participate in abortions as a condition of employment.

And that works, as far as a spokeswoman for “Sweden’s Health Professionals” is concerned: “[P]eople seeking care should not have to think about your own opinions”.

Think it couldn’t happen here? Think again. New Hampshire has no law protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals. Bills to change that have elicited testimony from abortion supporters that sounds a lot like the statement from the Swedish Health Professionals.

Watch Sweden, and take note.


Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care”

Short memories make for bad public policy. I can’t help but reflect on that.

As I write this, Congress is about to take a vote on doing something-or-another with Obamacare: repeal, replace, whatever. I’m not sure they know what they’re doing, despite good intentions all around. In all the tinkering, I am not hearing much from Members of Congress about what made the “Affordable Care Act” utterly unacceptable to so many Catholics, including me: the contraceptive mandate. Continue reading Undermining the First Amendment in the name of “Health Care”

House refuses to repeal buffer zone law

The New Hampshire House has given thumbs-down to repealing the state’s unenforced buffer zone law, rejecting HB 589 with a 191-165 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) vote.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt to repeal 2014’s buffer zone law, which gives abortion providers the ability to prohibit exercise of First Amendment rights on public property near their facilities. Last year’s repeal attempt was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s law is similar to the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Before the vote on HB 589, Reps. Jeanine Notter, Kurt Wuelper, and Dan Hynes spoke in favor of the repeal bill. I’m proud that two of them represent my town.

Here is the link to the roll call on HB 589. Keep in mind that the motion was ITL, so a “yea” vote favored killing the repeal effort. The “nays” came from reps who presumably don’t want to deny First Amendment rights to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Among the 165 representatives who opposed killing the repeal bill were four non-Republicans. I tip my cap to Democrats Amanda Bouldin, Raymond Gagnon, and Jean Jeudy for being willing to take a position at variance with that of their party’s leaders. Libertarian Caleb Dyer cast a pro-First-Amendment vote, too.

Most of the 191 votes to kill the repeal effort came from Democrats, but 34 Republicans lined up behind them.

Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017

[Update, 2/22/17: the original version of this post listed Rep. Jordan Ulery as absent from the hearing. Rep. Dan Hynes has advised me that Rep. Ulery is no longer on the Judiciary Committee. I regret the error.]

Update, 2/23/17: Well, well, well. Here’s a photo of the official roll call.

The upshot of all those scratched-out checkmarks is 10-7 in favor of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on buffer zone repeal, HB 589. The formal, “official” tally is as follows.

Voting in favor of ITL on HB 589: Reps. Rouillard, Graham (that’s a change from what I heard when the vote was cast), Leavitt, Wall. Horrigan, Berch, Kenison, Keans, DiLorenzo, and Mulligan.

Voting against ITL on HB 589 and therefore supporting peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights: Reps. Hagan, Hopper, Sylvia, Hull, Wuelper, Hynes, and Janvrin.  Continue reading Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017

Thoughts on National March for Life 2017

I’m home again after a 45-hour trip to the March for Life in Washington, DC. Most of that time was spent on a bus, and God bless the driver who took us safely to and fro.

A few thoughts as I decompress from the journey:

The March skews young. This was my fifth or sixth trip to a national March for Life. Back in 1993 at my first one, the presence of thousands of high school and college students surprised me. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, high school and college students all but own the March. They show anyone who’s paying attention that the pro-life movement is not going away, and it’s broadening in scope at the grassroots level.

Students for Life banners outside U.S. Supreme Court at March for Life 2017. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

Member of Congress Mia Love of Utah owned the stage at the pre-March rally. That’s hard to do when you share a stage with Abby Johnson, Cardinal Dolan, and a Vice-President. Hands-down, she showed how it’s done. The rally went on way too long with too many speakers, running until half an hour after the scheduled start of the march, but I would happily have listened to Love all afternoon.

Watch her, and enjoy seven edifying minutes.

Save The 1 was highly visible along the march route, and New Hampshire’s Darlene Pawlik was right there. Think of the women of Save the 1 whenever you come across an abortion regulation with a rape-and-incest exception.

Darlene Pawlik and daughter Julie at March for Life 2017.

I did not make the trip intending to attend a Trump rally. The pre-March rally came dangerously close to being one anyway. I did not vote for now-President Trump. To be sure, I am gratified by his recent reinstatement of the Mexico City policy.  I was hugely entertained by his recent calling-out (or shaming, as AOL prefers to say) of media outlets that downplay the Marches year after year. So he has made one respectful gesture toward the conscience rights of pro-life Americans, and he has called for better March for Life coverage. Let’s say the President has dabbled one toe in a single aspect of pro-life policy. He has a lot to learn. I hope he realizes that.

That said, I was happy to see Vice-President Mike Pence speak at the pre-March rally. This was practically Old Home Day for him, since he has spoken at past Marches back when he was in humbler offices. His presence this year, as Vice-President, was momentous.

The Jumbotron view of the Pence family at the March for Life – as close as most Marchers could get.

About that: the announcement of his participation came only the day before the March, and I heard about it with my fellow passengers as our bus rolled down the New Jersey Turnpike. Two thoughts collided – hey! this is great! followed by omigosh, the security thing…! The March has never had to deal with Secret Service protocol before. It was an inconvenience, and it kept many people at a distance from the rally (see below). As it happened, the Secret Service agents at the station I went through on the morning of the rally were efficient, businesslike, and good-humored, kinda like they’re used to this sort of thing.

I’ve never been in the midst of a bigger crowd. There’s one stretch of the march route, going up Capitol Hill, where it’s possible for a marcher to see what’s ahead and behind. I could see only waves and waves of fellow marchers – no beginning or end in sight.

March for Life 2017: the view behind me as I approached Capitol Hill.

No photo or report of the rally size could possibly do justice to the size of the March itself. The Secret Service set up a security perimeter on part of the National Mall. No one could bring a backpack inside the perimeter. Keep in mind that marchers from around the country learned this while they were already enroute to DC. What do college students use to carry their gear for a full day? Yup – backpacks. Solution: stand just outside the perimeter fence in order to hear all the speakers at the rally. Cameras scanning the inside-perimeter crowd missed everyone outside.

The view ahead of me, March for Life 2017.

March organizers are apparently trying to make the pre-march rally as big a deal as the March itself. I suspected as much in 2016 when the rally was not shortened in spite of a blizzard warning. (I’m still shaking my head over that decision.) I will never buy into that shift in emphasis. With all due respect to this year’s eleven scheduled speakers, when I travel to Washington for the March for Life, it’s not to listen to speeches. Not eleven of them, at any rate.

I saw more press trucks and reporters than usual, although I don’t know how that played out on-air. Why the increase? I think Pence’s presence, Trump’s public references to poor coverage of earlier marches, and a journalistic desire to compare the March for Life with the “Women’s March” of the previous Saturday all played a role.

I’d say something about the New Hampshire Congressional delegation’s participation, if there had been any.

Three cheers for Bishop Libasci. I am a Catholic woman who traveled to the March with other New Hampshire Catholics. I was surprised and delighted that we were met at our bus departure point at 5:45 in the morning by the bishop himself, seeing us off with a smile and a prayer. I later learned that he had been in Bedford a half-hour earlier to see off another busload of March for Life pilgrims.

He didn’t have to do that. I’m glad he took the time.


Pro-lifers to witness at Concord “Women’s March” (and you’re invited)

From this morning’s Leaven for the Loaf email newsletter:

An invitation to witness

The national “Women’s March” in Washington coming up Saturday the 21st has no place for pro-life women, thus revealing itself to be an abortion advocacy event. Pro-lifers are going to show up anyway. A similar “march” will be happening in Concord on State House Plaza on the same day, and intrepid New Hampshire pro-lifers will be there, too. You’re invited to join members of New Hampshire Right to Life as they rally for life

Read the event’s Facebook page for more information, or contact Beth at (but note that this is not a 40DFL-related event). 

I’m not giving away any secrets when I say that the pro-abortion rally in Concord will be big. (The Facebook signups for that event make that clear.) The pro-lifers nearby, in an act of faith, hope and love, simply want to give witness to the right to life. Organizers have a permit in hand from the city, limited to the sidewalk along Main Street outside State House plaza. 

Here’s a screenshot of the event’s flyer.

I’m sorry that I won’t be there myself – but I’ll look forward to sharing with readers the photos and reports from the pro-lifers who brave the sidewalk that day.

Note that I’m open to a guest post from anyone participating in an authentically pro-life response to one of the “Women’s Marches.”

Keep in mind the OK-to-choose-death-for-others mission of the “Women’s Marches,” as expressed by organizers of the main march in Washington when they rescinded an invitation to New Wave Feminists.