Abortion stats bill headed to NH Senate after House passage

The New Hampshire House today passed a bill to establish a state abortion-statistics collection program. The bill will be scheduled for Senate action at a later date.

The bill, HB 629, was introduced a year ago and was studied by a House subcommittee last summer and fall. The bill was amended by the subcommittee, adopted by the full Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee on a 12-1 bipartisan vote, and placed on the consent calendar for today’s 2016 opening session in the House. Passage came on a voice vote.

The original bill had bipartisan support from eleven co-sponsors, led by Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester). The amendment adopted today was presented by Reps. Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield) and Thomas Sherman (D-Rye). Nelson reported on behalf of the subcommittee, “As amended, this bill provides statistical information that brings New Hampshire in line with 48 other states. The committee took care to be sure the identity of the patient is confidential and follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. All stakeholders agreed to the final version of the bill.”

Related post on an earlier stats bill, 2014: “Putting down a marker for women’s health.”


Legislators, you’re in more than just my thoughts

As I write, the New Hampshire House and Senate are 45 minutes away from convening for 2016. Four hundred twenty-four people are up there when there’s a full complement. I’m thinking of all of them this morning – and praying.

If you’re a person of faith in God, I trust you’ll join me. Include everyone up in the State House, including the Governor and Councilors. Uphold them in prayer in good times and bad. They could use it.

So could I. It reminds me to put my trust in the right place. Either God is sovereign or He isn’t. Since He is, I might as well act accordingly, even though I need every reminder I can get once the legislative dust is kicked up.

Do you know your own reps – at least their names? Do they know you? Can you lift them up in prayer by name? Long ago, a nonprofit organization with which I worked had a sort of internal adopt-a-rep program whereby our supporters were asked to pray for a specific representative throughout the session. One of the best things about that program for each participant was the way it put a face on that amorphous entity called the House.

It’s easy to criticize and give up on a legislative body. I’ve done so more than once. It’s harder to write off an individual, especially an individual with whom one has built a relationship.

So for the House and Senate as a whole, and for each representative and senator, I’ll offer these petitions in all humility, knowing that no one is in need of prayer and mercy more than I.  Waste of time, you say? I respectfully disagree. Respectful disagreement seems not to be in vogue this week. I never was fashionable.

That they may be dedicated to the good of the people of New Hampshire,
For protection from all harm and violence,
That they might never inflict harm and violence whether intentionally or not,
For the discernment to speak the truth persuasively,
For the ability to extend mercy and forgiveness,
For knowing when to act and when NOT to act,
For the ability to shake off ill will,
For the ability to accept and give constructive criticism,
For the ability to give encouragement,
That they may refuse to ascribe ill will to those who dispute them,
That they may think twice or thrice before hitting “send” on social media,
For persistence in the belief that building a majority for good legislation is possible,
That they may defend the right to life, knowing that without that, defense of other rights sounds like just so much vote-buying,
That they may spend more time listening to local voters than to lobbyists in the hallway (and I say that as someone who has worked as a lobbyist),
In gratitude for their willingness to work for the public interest for $100 a year,
Lord, hear our prayer.

Hardly a comprehensive list of petitions, but you no doubt have your own. Good. The more, the better.

This session is starting in contention and bitterness, not mere disagreement. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, lucky you; you must not be on social media. I prefer to think that things can only get better as the session proceeds.

Looking back: selected NH House votes, 2015

State House, Concord NH
State House, Concord NH

Personhood, buffer zone repeal, fetal homicide, conscience protection for health care providers, public funding of abortion providers, abortion statistics, restriction on post-21-week abortion: the New Hampshire House considered all those issues this year, with mixed results. Bills on personhood, conscience protection, and limiting public funding of abortion providers were killed outright. The post-21-week bill was tabled without a roll call vote. A fetal homicide bill and an abortion statistics bill (the latter without a roll call) are still under consideration for 2016. Buffer zone repeal passed the House but was tabled in the Senate.

As always, the New Hampshire General Court home page is your portal to vote results, the text of bills, and identifying your representatives.  You can find every legislator’s action on every roll call vote. Take careful note of what motion is at issue in a vote;  “yes” might mean “yes” to killing the bill.

56 legislators to thank

Five votes represents a very small piece of House business and a small segment of the right-to-life spectrum. Granting that, though, these five 2015 votes are worth noting together:  HB 194 (personhood), HB 403 (buffer zone repeal), HB 560 (fetal homicide/Griffin’s Law from Rep. Rideout), HB 670 (conscience rights for medical professionals), and HB 677 (limiting public funding to abortion providers).

Fifty-six legislators showed up for all five of those votes, favored buffer zone repeal and fetal homicide legislation, and opposed killing the bills on personhood, conscience rights, and public funding of abortion providers. They’re listed here alphabetically by county, with district number in parentheses.

By their votes, these reps defended the right to life and the right to peaceful free expression. By their votes, they agreed that people who don’t want to cooperate in abortion should not be coerced into doing so. They know that New Hampshire law needs to recognize (as do more than three dozen other states) that anyone like an impaired driver or abusive partner who injures a pregnant woman and thereby causes the termination of her pregnancy against her will has committed homicide.

Next time you see these representatives, say thanks.  I will.

Belknap County

Raymond Howard Jr. (8), Robert Luther (3), Franklin Tilton (3).

Carroll County

Ed Comeau (5), Glenn Cordelli (4), Frank McCarthy (2), Bill Nelson (5).

Cheshire County: none.
Coos County

Leon Rideout (7).

Grafton County

Duane Brown (16), Paul Ingbretson (15), Eric Johnson (7).

Hillsborough County

Ralph Boehm (20), John Burt (39), Larry Gagne (13), Linda Gould (7), William Goulette (23), Edith Hogan (34), Joseph Lachance (8), Dick Marston (19), Mark McLean (15), Josh Moore (21), David Murotake (32), Keith Murphy (7), Jeanine Notter (21), Bill Ohm (36), Carl Seidel (28), Kathleen Souza (43), Victoria Sullivan (16)

Merrimack County

Michael Brewster (21), Harold French (2), Carol McGuire (29), Dan McGuire (21), Brian Seaworth (20)

Rockingham County

Max Abramson (20), Al Baldasaro (5), David Bates (7), Allen Cook (11), Joe Duarte (2), J. Tracy Emerick (21), William Gannon (4), Richard Gordon (35), Jeffrey Harris (9), Bruce Hodgdon (1), Robert Introne (5), Daniel Itse (10), Lawrence “Mike” Kappler (3), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (6), Frederick Rice (21), James Spillane (2), Chris True (4).

Strafford County

Warren Groen (10), Thomas Kaczynski Jr. (22), Robert Knowles (12), Don Leeman (23), Leonard Turcotte (4).

Sullivan County

Thomas Laware (8).


Two NH House de-funding bills: who rejected both? who supported both?

piggy bank office_com - Copy[Note: An error in the original post had several representatives on both lists. That has been corrected. I regret the error.]

The New Hampshire House killed HB 677 earlier this year, a bill to keep taxpayer money away from abortion providers. The link to the complete roll call is here. Note that the motion was “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL), so on the 216-142 tally, Yea was a vote to kill the bill. Reasons might vary for failing to support the bill – didn’t like the way the bill was drafted, didn’t want to deny funds to organizations that do so much good (or as I call it, the Duprey option), whatever – but you won’t know unless you ask. Find contact information for your reps on the state web site.

Another bill to keep public funds away from abortion providers, HB 228, was introduced in 2011 and was approved by the House in January 2012. It actually passed the House (see the roll call) but was tabled in the Senate. The House motion was “ought to pass” (OTP), so on HB 228, Yea indicated support.

Who rejected both de-funding bills?

These are the representatives who supported the ITL motion on HB 677 AND voted against the OTP motion on HB 228. They had two chances to get taxpayers out of the abortion business, and twice they refused to do so. I’ll look on the bright side and say that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Alphabetically by county, with party affiliation in parentheses:

BELKNAP: Donald Flanders (r), Franklin Tilton (r)

CARROLL: Karen Umberger (r)

CHESHIRE: Cynthia Chase (d), John Hunt (r), Henry Parkhurst (d), Tara Sad (d), Franklin Sterling (r), Bruce Tatro (d), Lucy Weber (d)

COOS: Robert Theberge (d), Yvonne Thomas (d)

GRAFTON: Susan Almy (d), Mary Cooney (d), Rick Ladd (r), Sharon Nordgren (d), Suzanne Smith (d), Charles Townsend (d), Andrew White (d)

HILLSBOROUGH: Chris Christensen (r), Jack Flanagan (r), Carolyn Gargasz (r), Kenneth Gidge (d), Jeffrey Goley (d), Mary Gorman (d), Jean Jeudy (d), Neal Kurk (r), Peter Leishman (d), Patrick Long (d), Russell Ober (r), Marjorie Porter (d), Ted Rokas (d), Cindy Rosenwald (d), Lisa Scontsas (r), Barbara Shaw (d), Daniel Sullivan (d)

MERRIMACK: Helen Deloge (d), June Frazer (d), Mary Gile (d), David Kidder (r), Frank Kotowski (r), James MacKay (d), Dick Patten (d), Stephen Shurtleff (d), Mary Jane Wallner (d)

ROCKINGHAM: Mary Allen (r), Jacqueline Cali-Pitts (d), Robert Elliott (r), Patricia Lovejoy (d), Betsy McKinney (r), Charles McMahon (r), Marcia Moody (d), Laura Pantelakos (d), Joanne Ward (r)

STRAFFORD: Timothy Horrigan (d), Naida Kaen (d), Peter Schmidt (d), Dale Sprague (d), Janet Wall (d)

SULLIVAN: John Cloutier (d), Raymond Gagnon (d), Andrew Schmidt (d)

Who Supported Both de-funding Bills?

Here’s the other side of the coin: reps who supported OTP on HB 228 and opposed ITL on HB 677.

BELKNAP: Guy Comtois (r), Franklin Tilton (r)

CARROLL: Frank McCarthy (r)


COOS: Laurence Rappaport (r)

GRAFTON: Paul Ingbretson (r), Jeffrey Shackett (r)

HILLSBOROUGH: Richard Barry (r), James Belanger (r), Ralph Boehm (r), John Burt (r), Lars Christiansen (r), James Coffey (r), Daniel Donovan (r), Larry Gagne (r), Dick Hinch (r), Edith Hogan (r), Gary Hopper (r), Don LeBrun (r), Keith Murphy (r), Jeanine Notter (r), Barry Palmer (r), Anthony Pellegrino (r), Laurie Sanborn (r), Carl Seidel (r), Tammy Simmons (r), Kathy Souza (r), Steve Stepanek (r), Timothy Twombly, Jordan Ulery (r)

MERRIMACK: Greg Hill (r), JR Hoell (r), Carol McGuire (r), Dan McGuire (r), Brian Seaworth (r)

ROCKINGHAM: Al Baldasaro (r), David Bates (r), Debra DeSimone (r), Joe Duarte (r), Robert Fesh (r), Kathleen Hoelzel (r), Robert Introne (r), Lawrence Kappler (r), Phyllis Katsakiores (r), Walter Kolodziej (r), John O’Connor (r), Frederick Rice (r), Kyle Tasker (r), James Webb (r), David Welch (r), Kenneth Weyler (r)

STRAFFORD: Roger Berube (d), Sue DeLemus (r), Warren Groen (r), Laura Jones (r), Robbie Parsons (r), Joe Pitre (r)


If your rep isn’t listed

This posts lists only people who voted the same way on both bills. The full roll calls linked near the top of this post will tell you if your representatives were absent for the vote(s). If your current rep wasn’t in office in 2012, she or he wouldn’t be on these lists. The Speaker of the House doesn’t vote if presiding, as was the case for Bill O’Brien in 2012 and Shawn Jasper in 2015.

In view of the recent videos of Planned Parenthood doctors, and in view of the fact that PP is the state’s largest abortion provider as well as a state family planning contractor, maybe it’s time to ask: are any of your reps who twice opposed de-funding reconsidering their stand?



Impasse for now: no NH fetal homicide law this year

I wanted to see fetal homicide legislation passed this year in New Hampshire, as I’ve wanted to see since it was first introduced in the early 1990s. I frankly preferred the House version to the Senate version, but I was among those who wanted to see something passed that would address the Lamy decision. The last thing I wanted or expected was to see the legislative session end with no progress. This puts me at odds with some good people and longtime allies who see violation of principle where I see math.

There should be a fetal homicide law in place. There isn’t, and that’s not because of any actions by the usual suspects who have opposed the very idea all along. Governor Hassan should have some version of fetal homicide legislation on her desk awaiting signature right now. Would a woman contemplating higher office really want to run with a veto of such legislation hanging around her neck, especially in the face of families who have lost children? We won’t know, at least not this year.

“Unable to reach consensus”

Rep. John Tholl
Rep. John Tholl

The report to the House written by Rep. John Tholl in July 19’s House calendar is succinct. “SB 40-FN, including a fetus in the definition of “another” for the purpose of certain criminal offenses. The conferees were unable to reach a consensus on section 4 of SB 40, and as a result SB 40 fails.” The sticking point is the Senate definition of viability as “sustained extrauterine survival.”

Meanwhile, the House’s fetal homicide bill, HB 560, was re-referred to committee by the Senate and will not be acted upon before the end of this year’s session. In the House’s fetal homicide language, “fetus” is defined as beginning eight weeks after conception.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s unanimous admonition in the 2009 Lamy case remains unanswered. After being forced to overturn a conviction in the death of a preborn child who succumbed to injuries inflicted by a drunk driver, the Court wrote, “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

Following Thursday’s brief and fruitless conference committee session, little knots of people formed and re-formed in and around the hearing room, expressions of disappointment predominating. I was nearly in tears myself. Among supporters of fetal homicide legislation, House members quietly blamed Senators while Senators quietly blamed House members. Each believed that the right language was at hand if only the other side would budge.

Conference committee

Rep. Leon Rideout
Rep. Leon Rideout

I got a quiet lesson in procedure from a Senator (not someone who spoke on the bill this week) after Thursday’s meeting. “A committee of conference is not like a subcommittee.” Pressed for time, I was told, conferees are not likely to be able to parse proposed amendments thoroughly. That’s a backdrop to the week’s events and a factor in the outcome.

Tuesday’s initial conference committee meeting on SB 40 was brief, after Senators Sharon Carson and Jeb Bradley notified their House counterparts that the Senate could not muster a majority for anything other than the Senate-passed language: fetal homicide would only apply in the death of a fetus that would otherwise be capable of “sustained extrauterine survival.” Thirteen votes were committed to that in the 24-member Senate.

Representative Leon Rideout, sponsor of HB 560, offered an amendment to make the bill effective at 24 weeks’ gestation. Senator Carson, leading the conference committee, agreed to recess the meeting to Thursday to give committee members and Senators time to consider the new language. Upon re-convening Thursday, Carson and Bradley once again had to inform conferees that the Senate position was firm. Rideout tried one last time to reach out to the Senators, offering viability defined as “capable of extrauterine survival With Or With Out Medical Assistance[, and] [A]ny Injuries Resulting From The Offense Shall Not Be Considered In Determining Viability.”

No go. The deadline for conference committee reports was only hours away. With obvious frustration, Carson declared an impasse and the meeting was over. Senator Regina Birdsell, prime sponsor of SB 40, looked on quietly. Her disappointment was evident.

Two bills, two sponsors, two views, two families

Rideout is sponsor of HB 560, also known as Griffin’s Law, now in abeyance until 2016. He told his fellow conferees that his test for a bill was whether it would address Lamy and whether it would have covered the death of his grandson Griffin. He thinks the Senate language is inadequate. “With deep regret, I cannot concur.” He later posted on his official Facebook page: “I am deeply disappointed to report That even after meeting the Republican #‎NHSenate more than 95% of the way they refused basic clarification language changes to SB 40.”

Sen. Regina Birdsell
Sen. Regina Birdsell

Birdsell is the prime sponsor of SB 40. As Rideout has brought forward the story of Griffin, Birdsell has brought forward the Crucitti family. This is not a theoretical issue for either sponsor. Frustration is running deep on all sides. On her official Facebook page, Birdsell posted this:

I sponsored SB40 one of the Fetal Homicide bills. It would have allowed the state to charge someone with a homicide if they killed an unborn child after Viability. Was it perfect? No, but we finally had the votes in the Senate and we had a real possibility of getting the Governor to sign it, however in the Committee of Conference two House members would not allow it to go any further. I’m disappointed because it would have been a start to allow families to get some closure when their world is torn apart by the loss of an unborn child. Once in the books we could have worked to make it better, but because of a different agendas from certain members of the House it didn’t work out, however I will continue to fight on for this bill!!

In the comments on that post, Rideout took sharp issue with Birdsell’s summary. Her reply: “[T]he Senate did not have the votes for your version.”

Regina Birdsell is a friend of mine, and I asked her about the situation later. She said nothing to me in private that’s at variance with what she said in public. “We know where thirteen votes are” – something Bradley and Carson both emphasized in conference. She believes passage of SB 40 with the Senate language might have been acceptable to the Governor, with adjustments to the medical language possible when HB 560 comes up from its re-referral next year.

I suspect the families of Griffin and the Crucitti baby will be back next time. I also suspect they’re at a loss to understand why nothing passed.

If the bruises raised this week don’t heal, if this becomes just another circular firing squad as the opponents of ANY fetal homicide law look on placidly, the families are bound to be disappointed again.

Nothing vs. something, and two nagging questions

On Tuesday, as previously reported, Senator Jeb Bradley said, “If nothing is better than something, we’re going to end up with nothing.” Representative John Burt demurred. “I never pass something just because I don’t have the votes [for a better version]. Let’s pass the best bill and do a roll call.”

Considering nothing-vs.-something, I wondered how other states have handled fetal homicide laws. Sponsors of every fetal homicide bill since Leo Pepino’s bill a quarter of a century ago have cited the fact that x-number of other states (currently thirty-eight) have some kind of fetal homicide law. I consulted the National Conference of State Legislatures web site. A quick review showed me that 14 of those states have fetal homicide laws applicable throughout pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies and acts authorized by the mother. Ten states use the word “viability” or “quick [child]”. Other states have things like implantation (now there’s a point to litigate) or a specific week in pregnancy.

My greatest misgiving about SB 40 is its definition of viability as being capable of “sustained extrauterine survival.” The NCSL site does not dive into the details of each state’s definition of viability. Assume for now that it’s a flexible, debatable term.

Given that, why would any opponent of SB 40 cite the thirty-eight state figure? If viability is an objectionable point to use, why count the states that use it in their laws?

If we’re unsure if SB 40 would cover Lamy – in other words, if we want to know if having SB 40 in place would have let Lamy’s conviction stand – why not seek an advisory opinion from the New Hampshire Supreme Court? That’s a decision for legislators. I honestly wonder why that hasn’t been done. Perhaps it can still be done with HB 560.

Representative Kathy Souza of Manchester, who has worked for a fetal homicide law since the days of Leo Pepino, warned me that in her view, the language of SB 40 would lead to an unenforceable law that would also knock out the born-alive rule currently in place. Is she right? In the absence of an authoritative legal opinion, I don’t know. Souza and leaders of New Hampshire Right to Life harbor no such doubts. In their view, SB 40 won’t do. Eleven senators agree with them, albeit for radically different reasons.

The Senate count

In March, senators voted 13-11 to pass SB 40 with the same language that was brought to conference. Seems to me that’s the chamber where attention should be focused going forward.

These are the senators who voted to pass SB 40. We can only speculate which one would have withdrawn her or his support if faced with House language. All are Republicans: Kevin Avard, Regina Birdsell, David Boutin, Jeb Bradley, Sharon Carson, Sam Cataldo, Gary Daniels, Jeanie Forrester, Jerry Little, Chuck Morse, Russell Prescott, John Reagan and Andy Sanborn.

And then there were the eleven for whom even “sustained extrauterine survival” was too big a pill to swallow. All are Democrats except Stiles: Lou D’Allesandro, Dan Feltes, Martha Fuller Clark, Andrew Hosmer, Molly Kelly, Bette Lasky, David Pierce, Donna Soucy, Nancy Stiles, David Watters and Jeff Woodburn.

I feel very safe in saying that not one of those eleven opposed the bill because it wasn’t strong enough. Quite the contrary. Likewise, I know I cannot paint the thirteen supporters with a broad brush, calling them somehow opposed to stronger language. All it took was one of them to refuse to agree to House language. That one is comfortably anonymous for now. I wish I knew the name for sure, so I could publicly lay this impasse at that senator’s feet.