Dominick’s Law: Hearing Thursday in Concord

“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.”

That’s the New Hampshire Supreme Court talking. The legislature might be listening. We’ll find out as HB 217 makes its way to the state senate’s Judiciary committee this week.  

“This case” is  State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, decided in 2009.  Lamy is in prison today and is likely to be there for at least the next four decades. He’s serving time for, among other things, one of the two lives he took when he smashed into a Manchester taxi at over 100 mph in 2006. He successfully appealed his conviction for the second death, arguing that in the eyes of the law, there was no crime because there was no victim.

The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries and the resulting diminished blood flow to her child were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. She named the baby Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy,  158 N.H. 511).  Those two weeks, bracketed by birth and death certificates, weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice James Duggan, went by existing New Hampshire law in overturning Lamy’s convictions for manslaughter and negligent homicide in Dominick’s death. . He refused to legislate from the bench. At the same time, as Duggan wrote in the line I quoted at the beginning of this post, the justices all recognized that existing law was inadequate.

HB 217 is a fetal homicide bill. As Justice Duggan pointed out, this concept hardly breaks new ground. It passed the House, albeit in what the original sponsor, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester), calls a “gutted” version. (Why was leadership moved to amend the original bill? Is the House Reproductive Rights Coalition that influential?)

Someone’s vote had to depend on the amendment, which changed the original bill that covered all preborn children to one that covers preborn children “24 weeks of gestation or more.” The amended bill commanded a fair majority in the House (213-125).

The committee hearing in the House brought forth people who call themselves “pro-choice”,  expressing concern that Roe v. Wade might be weakened by a fetal homicide law.  They evidently do not respect the choice made by Brianna Emmons to carry her child

Thirty states have some form of a fetal homicide law, and the last time I checked, Roe was very much in force. A fetal homicide law cannot stop a single abortion, for the simple reason that it applies only to pregnancies a mother has chosen to carry.

Drunk drivers & abusive partners can inflict pregnancy-ending injuries with literal impunity at any point in pregnancy until and unless New Hampshire passes a bill like the original version of HB 217. Think of it as Dominick’s law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday,  April 26, at 2:30 in room 101 of the Legislative Office Building.

Bullying Works: PP Scores Komen $

A chapter of the breast-cancer-fighting Susan G. Komen foundation has given a grant to a Planned Parenthood  affiliate in Austin TX. The amount is reportedly $45,000.

By the way, Texas PP affiliates are suing over a state de-funding law. That means that even if this affiliate doesn’t do abortions, it has the money for litigation. Komen is therefore effectively paying $45k for health care so PP doesn’t have to.

You’ll recall that PP & its supporters were quick to ramp up an attack campaign when Komen decided earlier this year to curtail its grants to PP.  A few days of pressure from PP did the trick, and now the pipeline’s back open. Apparently, once an agency makes a grant or contract to Planned Parenthood, stopping is not an acceptable option. I know three NH Executive Councilors who found that out the hard way.

Of course, while Komen folded within days, the Councilors did not yield to the bullies. (PPNNE had to do an end run around the state Title X contract process by going to Sen. Shaheen, who persuaded the Obama administration to send money.) Komen could learn something here.

 

Chuck Colson, RIP

Chuck Colson died today at the age of 80.  I owe him thanks,  and so does anyone else who holds dear religious freedom and the right to life. 

When I first heard of him, he was a villain of the Watergate scandal. I was a teenager at that time, in the early stages of political activism, and Watergate’s figures were clearly divided in my view between the Good Guys & the Bad Guys. Colson was decidedly and unapologetically one of the Bad Guys, seeming to deserve the media characterization of him as a “hatchet man” for Nixon. He wound up in prison for a brief time, where he experienced deep and fundamental conversion of heart. Like many people, I was skeptical that a “Bad Guy” could change.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was humbled to realize how mistaken I could be. He wore himself out in life-affirming ministries, most famously prison ministry.

Among the gifts he left us is the Manhattan Declaration from 2009, a “call to Christian conscience.” (Among Colson’s other work, he was a champion of ecumenical progress.) 
Discover it for yourself here.

Basic Books by Rita Marker and Abby Johnson

I expect this to become a recurring feature in this blog. I’ll recommend books that have influenced me in my pro-life journey.  I’d like to hear your recommendations as well.

Today, it’s something old & something new.

Deadly Compassion: the Death of Ann Humphry and the Truth About Euthanasia by Rita Marker (1995, William Morrow & Co., ISBN 9780688122218; also available as PDF download at www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/deadly-compassion/)
Unplanned: the Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert
(2010, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., ISBN 9781414339399; also available as e-book)

Deadly Compassion
Don’t be put off by the ponderous title. This is the best one-volume briefing available on the pro-euthanasia movement.  The style of writing makes for easy reading, despite the heavy topic. Rita Marker is founder and director of the Patients Rights Council, formerly the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, based in Ohio. In the course of her work, she met Ann Humphry, whose husband Derek Humphry was a leading light of the Hemlock Society. At first on opposite sides of a seemingly impassable philosophical divide, the two women formed an unlikely friendship that ended only with Ann’s tragic death, the circumstances of which were closely tied to the movement founded by her by-then-estranged husband.

Chapters alternate between the story of the friendship and the history of pro-euthanasia activities. At first somewhat jarring, this arrangement becomes smoother after the first few chapters. By the end, which is harsh even though the reader can see it coming, the personal and the political have merged to devastating effect. Marker does not resort to melodrama, although you might be misled into thinking so by some of the jacket blurbs. Marker’s smart enough to know that the bare facts are dramatic enough on their own.

Seventeen years after publication of this book, euthanasia advocates have scored some serious victories here and abroad. Reading Deadly Compassion is one good way to prepare to participate in the ongoing debate. Marker’s work with the Patients Rights Council continues today.

Unplanned
You’ve probably heard by now of Abby Johnson. A former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas, Johnson is now a full-time pro-life activist. She wants the world to know what PP looks like from the inside, and she is tenacious in calling for examination of PP’s finances.

Hers was not an overnight conversion. She went to work for PP out of compassionate motives, believing that women’s health was a priority there.  Two experiences in particular forced her to question what she was doing.  She was once asked to assist at an ultrasound-guided abortion to terminate a 13-week pregnancy. The image of the preborn child as the abortion was completed left her shaken. Later, as a clinic director, she was shocked to be given an “abortion quota” by PP, which clearly put the bottom line ahead of women’s health.

While this was going on inside PP, an exceptional ongoing pro-life witness was maintained outside the facilities. Protesters who were abusive toward PP workers had only increased solidarity within PP. A group called Coalition for Life took a different approach, relying on peaceful prayer and gentle communication. Gradually, as Johnson saw Coalition members outside her facility day after day, she got to know some of them. The personal connection was critical as Johnson attempted to come to terms with her doubts about her work.

The Coalition is the group responsible for the 40 Days for Life campaigns nationwide, and Johnson’s story is a testament to their effectiveness. Coalition leaders (including David Bereit, who will be visiting NH later this year) became mentors and friends to Johnson, standing by her as she came to her decision to leave PP.

From the Foreword: “I reveal my story not because I am proud of it. I am not. But my thinking and choices are not unlike those of so many people I have encountered. And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth.”

It Takes a Village to Kill a Mandate

The Nashua Telegraph is reporting this afternoon that a NH Senate committee has recommended “polite death” for HB 1546, a bill to repeal the state’s mandate that health insurers cover contraception. It was tough enough getting that one through the House. The full Senate has yet to vote, so the outcome is still open. The committee’s recommendation will be overturned if and only if enough senators recognize that this mandate and its federal counterpart are attacks on religious liberty.

When NH’s mandate passed a dozen or so years ago, I didn’t recognize its significance.  I opposed the bill, but I settled for quietly shaking my head instead of taking up the argument. After all, in accordance with my religious faith, I wasn’t using contraceptives, and I wasn’t working for a religious institution with moral objections to contraception. It did not occur to me or to anyone else in the room that NH’s mandate, and similar measures in other states, would help pave the way for the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require that all Americans purchase health care, define contraception and abortifacient drugs as “preventive care”, and refuse to recognize conscientious objections to this arrangement.

(I’ll save for another day a fuller treatment of just what kind of health problem contraception “prevents”.)

Back in 1999, that would have seemed a huge leap. Now, looking back, I wonder how I could have failed to see what was coming. It is to the great credit of American Catholic bishops that they have been so outspoken in defending religious liberty against this encroachment (see their statement here). That’s a start. The bishops have done their job. It’s now for the rest of us to bring the no-mandate message to Concord and Washington.

The HHS mandate plays strange games with health care, and thus with people’s lives. It says certain procedures are “preventive” and thus must be free to women. No co-pay. Except that’s not really free: everyone, including women with religious objections to the procedures, must pay, since everyone will be required to carry insurance. Religious institutions providing insurance to employees will have to pay to include that coverage even if the procedures violate the tenets of the religion in question. There is no opting-out. In response to protests, the President has delayed implementation of the mandate to August 2013, as though the outrage will cool by then.

What will happen at that time to religious institutions, such as hospitals and adoption agencies, that will not pay into such a health care system? They can knuckle under, which is undoubtedly what HHS expects, or they can close down, or they can continue to operate but pay heavy fines to the government.

But what about the First Amendment? The HHS mandate attempts to get around that by exempting certain religious employers – but not the ones that serve people of other religions. As others have pointed out, Jesus and the apostles would flunk that test. Employers refusing to submit to the mandate will be fined.

A government that attacks my religion today can attack yours tomorrow. Today, I am being told that I can hold whatever beliefs I want, as long as I’m prepared in August 2013 to pay a fine for taking those beliefs seriously. Tomorrow, or next week, or next year, you could be getting that message.

It does not matter if those of us who reject the mandate are in a minority. The Bill of Rights was not put into the Constitution to protect majorities.

When the American bishops spoke up earlier this year, they were greeted with a well-orchestrated & well-funded campaign promoting a lie: that anyone opposing the mandate is waging war on women.

I don’t have an advertising budget. I don’t have Nancy Pelosi’s phone number to ask her to set up a mock hearing for me. I am not a photogenic 30-year-old Georgetown law student with a publicist. I’m simply a New Hampshire neighbor, here to get my message across as best I can.

A co-pay is not a war.  Respecting Catholic beliefs is not an act of war. When you keep your hands out of my pocket when you pay for your preventive care, that’s not an act of war.

On the other hand, a federal mandate that threatens the Catholic Church’s ability to operate thousands of schools and hospitals and adoption agencies DOES amount to a war on women. When this mandate imposes a fine a on a church that is one of the foremost health care providers in the nation, that’s not only a First Amendment violation. It’s stupid, shortsighted policy that will have a devastating effect on American women.

Today’s hearing in Concord featured women complaining that repealing the state mandate would inhibit access to contraception. Note to senators: access doesn’t mean free. Ask any store owner. At least eleven agencies in our state offer family planning services on a sliding fee scale, so financial need is not barrier to access.

The HHS mandate, and the state-level mandates as well, are not really about preventive health care except to those who consider women’s fertility to be a disease. A mandate that threatens Catholic health care providers undermines the very meaning of health care. In fact, if you’re concerned about women’s health, you’ll defend the church’s freedom to do its work.

Up to now, people of faith have “rendered unto Caesar”, as the saying goes, on things like this. Just as I behaved when NH’s mandate was enacted, we’ve gone along to get along. The HHS mandate is a line in the sand, drawn by Caesar, and it’s time to say “we’ve rendered enough.”

I’m not asking for any favors here. I am a citizen, and I claim the protections of the First Amendment against those who would force individuals and institutions of any religion to participate in providing procedures they recognize as immoral. That’s solid ground on which to stand.

A co-pay is not a war, fertility is not a disease, and religious faith is not a crime. Senators in Concord and HHS bureaucrats in Washington evidently need to be reminded of this.

(This post is based in part on remarks I delivered to the Standing Up for Religious Freedom rally in Concord last month.)

Introduction: “Still Talking About This”

“I can’t believe we’re still talking about this.”
I must have heard those words fifty times in the past year in Concord, spoken by fellow citizens who style themselves “pro-choice” and are truly surprised that pro-lifers are still active.

Still talking about what? About abortion, how it became legal, and how it has grown into a lucrative business for abortion providers; about women facing challenging pregnancies and sometimes facing the aftermath of terminating those pregnancies; about paying for it and subsidizing the industry.  We’re still talking because there is no way to shut down a debate when lives are at stake.

To the great dismay of abortion advocates, New Hampshire legislators in the past year have taken up a number of bills that touch on abortion.  Every session has some abortion debate, but 2011-12 has been remarkable for the sheer volume of life-issue legislation. Most of the bills are consistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that are based on Roe. With the exception of two measures to ban late-term abortion and “partial-birth” infanticide, the bills provide mere regulation, long-overdue and badly needed. One bill is simply an attempt to get the state to order abortion providers to report statistics.

New Hampshire currently is the Wild West where abortion law is concerned. Women’s safety and public health policy would seem to call for a degree of regulation and oversight, even if one were to put aside the fact that each abortion takes a human life. Abortion advocates are  loud and angry over each and every one of the bills, however, drawing no distinction among parental notification (enacted over a veto), funding restrictions, statistical reporting, and a late-term ban. To them, it’s all one big attack on Choice, part of a larger effort to set women back.

This is worse than nonsense. What I see being set back are the rights of women and men who choose not to pay even indirectly for the operation of an abortion facility.  I see people lobbying to keep abortion undocumented, so that public health officials will continue to be in the dark about how many New Hampshire women make this “choice” every year. I hear testimony to the need for eugenic abortion, which is a throwback to one of the 20th century’s worst ideas. I hear women who should know better equate a 24-hour waiting period with an outright ban on abortion.

Both in New Hampshire and elsewhere, we need to meet this with more than hand-wringing and the occasional letter to the editor. I offer this blog as a tool and a guide to action for all who share my determination to bring an end to the carnage wrought by Roe. I will undoubtedly use the blog sometimes just to vent. At all times, though, I am mindful that if I do this right, I’ll be reaching people who disagree with me. Persuasion is always possible. Of course, I have no doubt that someone over on the other side is working to persuade me right back. Fair enough.

I write as a woman who came of age in the years shortly after Roe v. Wade. When I was in high school and a dear friend “had” to have an abortion, I chipped in with some friends for the $250 cost. I found the idea of abortion regrettable & uncomfortable, but it was after all my friend’s body & my friend’s choice. Over the following five years, many experiences combined to leave me incapable of denying the humanity of the child in uteroThe dignity of both mother and child are absolute, regardless of what any court may decide.

Just as the state rep who heads the Reproductive Rights Caucus is careful to mention that she’s Catholic, I should be candid about my religious background. While raised Catholic, I spent most of my adolescence shrugging off religion. Later, it wasn’t being Catholic that made me pro-life. It was recognizing the miracle of life that brought me back to professing the Catholic faith. This has been significant in more ways than I could have imagined when I was a young woman.

As for politics, I call myself a recovering Republican. I fall off the wagon now and then, but I am a registered “undeclared” voter, in New Hampshire parlance. The rest of the world knows me as “independent.” It is true that nearly every candidate I support runs as a Republican. It is also true that GOP leaders tend to take pro-life voters for granted. By not signing up with the party, I can help whatever candidates I choose, and the party need not get annoyed with me for failing to back every candidate on the ticket.

So yes, we’re still talking about this. Pro-lifers cannot be effective if they stay huddled together. I propose that we step out in faith and leaven the loaf of public discourse. Let’s begin.

 

a Granite State pro-life blog by Ellen Kolb