Veto sustained: abortion insurance mandate bill fails

The New Hampshire House has sustained Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of HB 685, which would have created an abortion insurance mandate applicable to certain health insurance policies.

The vote on the veto override attempt was 195-139, well short of the two-thirds majority required for override. (“Yea” indicated support for the override; “Nay” indicated support for the Governor’s veto.)

The vote broke down along party lines. One Republican (Skip Rollins, R-Newport) joined 194 Democrats in supporting the override. Democrats Barbara Shaw (D-Manchester) and Mark Vallone (D-Epping) joined 137 Republicans in voting to sustain the veto.

Pro and Con

Rep. Rebecca McBeath (D-Portsmouth), speaking to colleagues before the override vote, said “abortion care is an essential procedure for women’s health.” In 2019 McBeath voted against collecting and reporting abortion statistics as a public health measure – something that 47 other states do. Further, Rep. McBeath has not taken any steps I know of to require New Hampshire abortion providers to have any medical training.

Rep. McBeath cited the new privacy amendment to the state constitution as another reason for overturning the veto. I wrote about that amendment before it came to a vote in 2018, warning how it could be misused by abortion advocates.

Given a chance to make a brief statement in favor of sustaining the Governor’s veto, Rep. Kim Rice (R-Hudson) reminded her colleagues that HB 685 would have put New Hampshire afoul of a federal law (the Weldon amendment), thereby costing the state millions of dollars.

In his veto message, Governor Sununu cited the Weldon Amendment as one reason for his action. He went on to say, “This legislation is unnecessary, and would threaten the State’s ability to receive federal funding for our many healthcare programs in the middle of a global pandemic. The vast majority of the commercially insured in New Hampshire already have coverage of abortion services. The legislation also raises constitutional concerns by forcing employers who morally object to offering coverage that violates their religious tenets.”

Edited to add link to House roll call vote.

House, Senate to consider veto override on September 16

The New Hampshire House will meet on Wednesday, September 16, to consider bills vetoed by Governor Chris Sununu. Among those bills is HB 685, the abortion insurance mandate.

A two-thirds vote in House and Senate is required for an override. If the House overrides a veto in its 10 a.m. session, the Senate will take it up at its own session at noon.

What will the question be?

The motion on HB 685 will be a question: Notwithstanding the Governor’s veto, shall HB 685 become law?

A Yes vote will be in support of the abortion insurance mandate and opposed to the veto. If two-thirds of House members and two-thirds of Senators vote to support the override, HB 685 will become law.

A No vote will be in opposition to the mandate and in support of the veto. That’s the one I’ll be cheering for.

How do I reach my legislators?

Look up information for your House members on the General Court website, gencourt.state.nh.us. You can search by town or by legislator’s name.

Look up House members

Look up Senate members

A brief, clear, courteous message to sustain the Governor’s veto of HB 685 could help prevent the abortion insurance mandate from becoming law.

Are the veto override sessions open to the public?

House and Senate are still operating under COVID restrictions. There is no announced public access except as described below. However, the sessions will be live-streamed so the public can monitor the proceedings online.

According to the House Calendar, the lounge of the Whittemore Center will be open to the public during the session. This is in a separate area from the arena floor where the House will be meeting.

According to a tweet from the House Clerk, the House livestream will be available at 10 a.m. on September 16 at nhhouse.edifymultimedia.com.

The Senate session livestream will be available at noon on September 16 at http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00286/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/20200916/-1

In order to allow for social distancing, the House will meet at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and the Senate will meet in Representatives Hall at the State House in Concord.

Does the recent primary election affect the veto session?

No. The 2019-20 legislators will remain in office until Organization Day in early December following November’s general election.

Edited to provide link to House livestream.

Post-veto, a clarifying moment on Twitter

Yes, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the odious abortion insurance mandate. I’ve thanked him. I hope readers will do likewise.

Nothing in the veto changes his attitude toward abortion. The veto indicated respect for those who disagree with him, just as it indicated concern that the mandate would have cost the state money. That’s as far as it goes.

Three people came together in a Twitter exchange a few hours after the veto to clear this up for pro-life voters.

First, this from Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord), who hopes to get the Democratic nomination for Governor this fall. He pitched his customary reproductive-rights spiel.

Mere minutes later came this reply from a gentleman working for the Governor’s re-election, formerly on the Governor’s staff. He helpfully pointed out that Planned Parenthood has not suffered under the Governor’s leadership, despite the fact that he has disappointed them twice in five years (more about that here, under “an interesting anniversary”).

A state representative summed it up well in her reply to Mr. Vihstadt. She does not trash the Governor, nor has she ever done so in my hearing. She is a thoughtful individual. But she does have a habit of calling things as she sees ’em.

Ouch. But yes.

Gratitude for the veto is a good thing. It’s downright essential, in my book. Acknowledgment of the conscience rights of Granite Staters is always refreshing to see.

Maybe that’ll extend to keeping tax dollars away from abortion providers someday.

Perhaps that’s a conversation to be had on the campaign trail.

Veto! Sununu says no to abortion insurance mandate

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a measure to create an abortion-insurance mandate for certain health insurance policies. In his veto message on HB 685, he cited conscience concerns and a potential loss of federal funds if the bill were to become law.

“This bill would risk the States federal healthcare funding in the middle of a pandemic, take away the freedom of choice for those employees and employers who object to being forced to partake in or provide abortion services, and expose the State to expensive litigation. Therefore, the costs and risks of this bill far outweigh its benefits.” (Full statement at this link.)

HB 685’s advocates, citing “parity,” treat abortion as health care. To them, conscience protections are “discriminatory attacks.” They seek to remove abortion-free options for anyone who chooses not to help provide abortions, including insurance providers, business owners who offer health insurance as a benefit to employees, and individuals paying insurance premiums.

HB 685 got to the Governor’s desk after a tortuous legislative process that included stripping an unrelated bill of its language in order to replace it with the abortion insurance mandate. The bill was passed in spite of a House rule barring nongermane amendments. There was no House public hearing on the bill in its amended form.

Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in House and Senate. The House Clerk has announced that the House will have its “Veto Day” on September 16 at UNH’s Whittemore Center in Durham.

Earlier coverage of HB 685: Mandate bill created in rushed process, Clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

To thank the Governor: (603) 271-2121 or governorsununu@nh.gov

Edited to correct date for House Veto Day.

After one-month delay, clock is ticking on abortion insurance bill

The abortion insurance mandate bill crafted by pro-abortion New Hampshire legislators is finally on Governor Sununu’s desk. HB 685 was passed and entered the enrollment process on June 30. Not until August 5 did the Senate finally sign off on the bill. Governor Sununu now has five business days to act on it.

The Governor’s office phone number is (603) 271-2121. Email is governorsununu@nh.gov. He could act on the bill as early as today.

Five-day countdown after one-month delay

HB 685 entered the enrollment process on June 30 after a rule-bending journey through House and Senate. Enrollment is normally an administrative procedure lasting a few days, involving getting signatures from House and Senate leaders. By delaying sign-off, those leaders can affect the timing of when a bill gets to the Governor.

In the case of HB 685, the Senate was the chokepoint. Senate President Donna Soucy finally did her job and sent the bill to the Governor on August 5. From there, Governor Chris Sununu has five business days to sign or veto the bill, or let it become law without his signature.

The last option – letting it become law without his signature – is no different from signing it outright.

The big lie: “reproductive health parity”

Abortion advocates have titled the mandate a “reproductive health parity” bill. That’s a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that even among abortion-friendly legislators, the word “abortion” is radioactive.

Don’t be fooled. HB 685 is an abortion bill. It is founded on the false notion that abortion is health care, together with the false notion that “access” means forcing the community as a whole to help procure abortions.

In a press release tweeted out by Senate Democrats, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) said that HB 685 is essential to “guaranteeing full reproductive health care and reducing barriers for women when making their constitutionally protected decisions.”

No word on whether Senator Rosenwald is interested in repealing the buffer zone law, which was passed in the thus-far-vain hope it would be a barrier for women making constitutionally protected decisions to demonstrate publicly and peacefully outside abortion facilities.

An interesting anniversary

Whether the Senate Democrats intended so or not, their statement on HB 685 comes on the fifth anniversary of then-Executive Councilor Sununu’s surprising vote to deny a state contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. In a joyous borderline-intemperate Facebook post that day, I wrote “Can I get a Hell Yeah for Chris Sununu? He courageously voted no on PP contracts, citing need for alternatives for women in his district.”

Why so shocking? Because he had voted to grant earlier PP contracts, and only a few months later, he reverted to supporting PP contracts again.

Coverage in this blog noted more about Sununu’s vote on August 5, 2015.

In the discussion preceding the vote, Sununu said “I’m pro-choice and I support Planned Parenthood, but in my district, women have no [other] choice.” He unsuccessfully urged Hassan and his fellow Councilors to “take a step back” and support a study of health care options in Sununu’s southeastern New Hampshire district. He said he got calls from constituents who wanted family planning services but not at Planned Parenthood. He also expressed concern about activities at other Planned Parenthood affiliates documented in the [Center for Medical Progress] videos [documenting PP commerce in fetal body parts], which were dismissed by Hassan, Van Ostern and Pappas (in identical language) as “heavily edited.” “I’ve watched that video cover to cover with no edits,” said Sununu. “I’m pro-choice, but that’s not the issue here.”

reported in Leaven for the Loaf, 8/5/15

Perhaps the better angels of his nature will prevail again in 2020.