Born-alive legislation, 2021

“Any born alive infant, including one born in the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment…Any health care provider present at the time the infant is born shall take all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to the preserve the life and health of the born alive infant.”

That’s the key language from HB 233-FN, the born-alive infant protection bill to be heard in House Judiciary on February 10. The bill seeks to assure that once a child survives abortion – that is, once a pregnancy has been terminated and a living child remains – that child has an enforceable right to medically appropriate and reasonable care.

If you think that’s a good idea, speak up. It’s not an idea that has yet found a place in New Hampshire law. You can sign in using this online form: February 10, House Judiciary, HB 233.

HB 233 may be the definitive way of determining just how much difference the 2020 election made.

Flashback to 2020

A similar bill was killed in the House last year on an Inexpedient to Legislate motion, 177-131. The Judiciary Committee – many of whose members are back on the committee this year – made the ITL recommendation along party lines.

I took video of then-Chair Marjorie Smith reading her statement opposing that year’s born-alive bill. She claimed there’s “no such thing” as abortions being done until birth, in spite of testimony to the contrary. She denied that New Hampshire law allows abortion until birth, which is like denying that the sun rises in the east: you can say it if it makes you feel better, but know that you’re denying reality.

It’ll be interesting to see how closely this year’s committee hearing and subsequent vote hew to last year’s pattern.

The Senate took a crack at its own born-alive bill in 2020. Result: tabled, on a party-line vote.

Zoom hearing link, and other bills on agenda

All of House Judiciary’s hearings on Wednesday, February 10 are being held via Zoom at this link: https://www.zoom.us/j/91322816360

HB 233, the born-alive bill, will have its hearing at 1 p.m. Earlier, at 9 a.m., the committee will hold a hearing on two bills at once, both on taxpayer funding of abortion: HB 434 and HB 596.

HB 434: the No Public Funds for Abortion Act, with exceptions for “abortion performed when the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” 

HB 596-FN: the Life Appropriation Act, bars state funding of “convenience” abortions, including funding to agencies that perform such abortions, even if potential funding is for a non-abortion purpose. The bill would also establish a Foster Care and Adoption Initiative Fund.

For your information: Abortion Survivors Network

Whatever the outcome of New Hampshire’s born-alive bill, no matter what’s happening politically, abortion survivors are finding their voices. Each one is living defiance of the “no such thing” claim. Check out the Abortion Survivors Network, and read the stories from survivors.

Header image by Pexels.

N.H. House Judiciary life-issue hearings next week

Two bills to change New Hampshire’s policy of unrestricted abortion, along with bills to repeal the buffer zone law, bar public funding of abortion, and protect children born alive after attempted abortion, will be heard in the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee on February 9 and 10.

These measures respecting human life and conscience may be voted on by the committee at any time after the hearings, without a separately-scheduled session.

To me, some of these bills clearly show better legislative preparation than others. Some show more broad-based support than others. Read them for yourself – then act.

The committee will accept testimony remotely. There is no public access to the Legislative Office Building. You can sign in electronically anytime before the hearings to register your opinion. In an earlier post, I summarized the new testimony and sign-in procedures. Here’s a quick review, followed by details of the hearings and links to the bills.

How to weigh in

  • You can sign in on a bill before its hearing, even days before, so that committee members and staff have your opinion on record. No testimony is needed for this simple step. Signing in is easy. Share this link with like-minded friends: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx
  • You can email the Judiciary Committee with your written opinion and testimony on any or all of these bills, using a separate message for each bill. A message to HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us will reach all 21 committee members.
  • You can testify online during the hearings, using the sign-in procedure in advance and then joining the online Zoom videoconference the day of the hearing. Links are below, taken from the February 5 House Calendar. Note that there is a telephone option as well. These hearings are likely to be lengthy.
  • You can listen to the hearings without testifying, by listening via Zoom. The NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming channel on YouTube may be another option.
  • What you cannot do is go to Concord and have face-to-face contact with the committee members, which makes electronic communication vitally important.

What’s the “FN” attached to some bills?

“FN” stands for Fiscal Note, a reference to the bill’s potential cost. It is not essential to include FN when contacting a legislator. For example, HB 233 and HB 233-FN refer to the same bill.

Tuesday, February 9

Zoom log-in: join any of Tuesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/96805083773, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 968 0508 3773.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to restrict post-viability abortions

HB 622-FN: an act to protect nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. This bill would bar abortion of a viable fetus, except in cases of “a clear and present danger to the life or health of the mother.” Sponsors: Reps. Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Max Abramson (R-Seabrook), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead).

HB 625-FN: the Fetal Life Protection Act, barring abortions after the fetus reaches 24 weeks gestational age, with exceptions for medical emergencies. Sponsors: Reps. Beth Folsom (R-Wentworth), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (R-Derry), Maureen Mooney (R-Merrimack), Linda Gould (R-Bedford), Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Walter Stapleton, and Senators Ruth Ward (R-Stoddard) and Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead).

2 p.m.: buffer zone repeal

HB 430: the Sidewalk Free Speech Act, “repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility.” This one has as many official sponsors as a bill is allowed to list: ten reps, five senators. Perhaps with this fifth attempt, lawmakers will finally repeal the anti-First-Amendment “buffer zone” law passed in 2014 but never enforced.

Sponsors: Reps. Niki Kelsey (R-Bedford), Hershel Nunez (R-Pelham), Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), Linda Gould, Walter Stapleton, Maureen Mooney, Jeanine Notter, Mark Pearson, Vanessa Sheehan (R-Milford), Matt Simon (R-Littleton), and Sens. Denise Ricciardi (R-Bedford), Regina Birdsell, Gary Daniels (R-Milford), Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), and Kevin Avard (R-Nashua).

Wednesday, February 10

Zoom log-in: join any of Wednesday’s Judiciary hearings by going online to https://www.zoom.us/j/91322816360, or dialing 1-929-205-6099 (note: that is a toll number; keep that in mind if you’re calling from a landline!). The webinar ID is 913 2281 6360.

To sign in, registering your opinion: fill out this form on the House website, once for each bill. You will cite the hearing date, committee (Judiciary), bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill. If you intend to testify, you may indicate that on the sign-in form. To share the sign-in link, use this URL: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

9 a.m.: combined hearing on two bills to bar public funding of abortions

HB 434: the No Public Funds for Abortion Act. This one does what looks like a thorough job of ruling out avenues for state-level taxpayer funding of abortion, with exceptions for “abortion performed when the life of the mother is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” Sponsors: Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Maureen Mooney, Kim Rice (R-Hudson), Jim Creighton (R-Antrim), Matt Simon, Mark Pearson, Linda Gould, Debra DeSimone (R-Atkinson), Bill King (R-Milford), Diane Pauer (R-Brookline), and Senators Gary Daniels, Denise Ricciardi, and Ruth Ward.

HB 596-FN: the Life Appropriation Act, barring state funding of “convenience” abortions, including funding to agencies that perform such abortions, even if potential funding is for a non-abortion purpose. The bill would also establish a Foster Care and Adoption Initiative Fund. Sponsor: Rep. Fred Plett (R-Goffstown).

1 p.m.: born-alive infant protection

HB 233-FN: the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. “Any born alive infant, including one born in the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.” Sponsors: Reps. Jordan Ulery (R-Hudson) and Walter Stapleton.

Share this information

The committee needs to get public comment before the hearings. Every sign-in counts, even without testimony attached. The tallies are going to be news, watched not only by committee members and the customary observers, but also – unless I miss my guess – by Governor Sununu.

According to an email from its “director of advocacy,” the New Hampshire Medical Society will be opposing all of these measures. That includes buffer zone repeal, which has no bearing on abortion itself and is purely a First Amendment issue. Pro-life medical professionals, take note. The Society will speak up. Will you?

Post header image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.

2021 legislation coming into focus

The New Hampshire State House remains closed to the public, but legislative business is underway with live-streamed sessions and Zoom hearings. Proposed legislation includes several life-issue and conscience-rights bills that are awaiting scheduling.

I should illustrate this post with a photo of a laptop screen instead of the State House. The screen is as close as we’ll get to the committees, until someone in COVID-19 authority declares otherwise.

A partial list

Here’s a partial list of bills, with legislation still being developed. Hearings are not yet scheduled for these measures.

Number of bill or legislative service request (LSR; that’s a bill-in-formation), title or analysis as printed in the bill, sponsors’ name/town with chief sponsor listed first:

  • LSR 146, prohibiting public funding of abortions and establishing the New Hampshire foster care and adoption initiative fund. (Rep. Fred Plett, Goffstown)
  • HB 233-FN, relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment. (Reps. Jordan Ulery, Hudson, and Walter Stapleton, Claremont)
  • LSR 541, relative to the protection of fetal life. (Reps. Beth Folsom, Wentworth; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, Derry; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Sens. Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Ruth Ward, Stoddard)
  • HB 430, repealing the prohibition on entering or remaining on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health facility. This would repeal the unenforced “buffer zone” law. (Reps. Niki Kelsey, Bedford; Jeanine Notter, Merrimack; Linda Gould, Bedford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Hershel Nuñez, Pelham; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Tim Baxter, Seabrook; Sens. Jeb Bradley, Wolfeboro; Gary Daniels, Milford; Regina Birdsell, Hampstead; Kevin Avard, Nashua; Denise Ricciardi, Bedford)
  • HB 434, prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions. (Reps. Vanessa Sheehan, Milford; Maureen Mooney, Merrimack; Kimberly Rice, Hudson; Debra DeSimone, Atkinson; Linda Gould, Bedford; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Matthew Simon, Littleton; Bill King, Milford; Diane Pauer, Brookline; Jim Creighton, Antrim; Sens. Denise Ricciardi, Bedford; Ruth Ward, Stoddard; Gary Daniels, Milford)
  • HCR 4, a resolution recognizing the authority of states to enact laws protecting the lives of the unborn and calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a human life amendment to the Constitution. (Rep. Max Abramson, Seabrook)
  • LSR 791, protecting nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest. (Reps. Walter Stapleton, Claremont; Bill Nelson, Brookfield; Mark Pearson, Hampstead; Max Abramson, Seabrook)

A few notes

While the House and Senate have Republican majorities, I haven’t heard any chatter about giving these bills high priority within the GOP caucus. I expect COVID-19 policy, education choice, and the state budget to predominate.

Speaking at a Business and Industry Association online event earlier this week, Speaker of the House Sherman Packard said “all testimony will be virtual” – he meant online. While House committees might meet at the State House in modified hearing rooms (air filters are being installed, among other COVID accommodations), the public will participate electronically for now.

Senate committees are meeting online via the Zoom platform, which allows for public participation. As with the House, there is currently no provision for the public to be physically present with legislators during testimony.

The Senate has announced that it will allow “omnibus” bills this year. That’s one of the worst ideas held over from last year’s pandemic disruptions. Multiple bills will be bundled together in each omnibus, with a single hearing for each bundle. While that may be appropriate in an emergency, let’s hope the emergency doesn’t extend beyond this session. Making omnibus bills routine gives rise to a we-have-to-pass-it-to-find-out-what’s-in-it mentality.

There are more than 800 bills in the works, covering a myriad of topics including human trafficking, religious liberty, and allocation of state resources. Most will be dealt with by the end of May, with June to be dedicated to finalizing the state budget for the next fiscal biennium which begins on July 1.

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.