Introducing New Ministry to Abortion Workers

Abby Johnson used to work for Planned Parenthood, and I reviewed her book Unplanned in an earlier post. She has launched an new ministry to what I can safely call an underserved population: workers in the abortion industry who would like to get out. Since leaving PP and going public with her story, Johnson has heard from other ex-workers, as well as from current abortion participants who are having second thoughts about their line of work. In a webcast last night, Johnson unveiled this new ministry, “And Then There Were None” (ATTWN).

The banner on the ATTWN web site says “no abortion clinic workers, no abortion clinics, no abortions.” Ambitious goal, indeed. If that had been written by anyone other than an industry veteran, I’d roll my eyes and dismiss it as hopelessly unrealistic. It sounds like a wish, not a plan. Johnson is making it real by building a team to offer the practical assistance that people need in a difficult time of transition. Leaving the abortion industry is not easy. In addition to wondering where to go to find new employment, the worker may be threatened with legal action, as Johnson learned when she left PP.

ATTWN will give workers leaving the abortion industry access to pro bono legal representation if needed, along with financial support while looking for new work. Emotional support and spiritual counseling are part of the ministry as well.

Leaders in the abortion industry will not be happy to lose workers, and I expect PP and the National Abortion Federation will push back hard against ATTWN. That’s a backhanded tribute to Abby Johnson. We can help her out with prayers & donations. We can help exit-minded abortion workers by referring them to ATTWN – after helping them with our personal support and welcome and acceptance.

 

“Go Back To The Drawing Board” on HHS Mandate

I was privileged to be invited to speak on behalf of Cornerstone Policy Research at today’s Standing Up for Religious Freedom rally in Concord. I hope the other speakers will post their remarks as well, and if they do, I’ll link to them. We saw a lot of thumbs-up from  drivers going past. Apparently, the message is getting out there, even in Concord. Here are the remarks I delivered.

June 2012: religious freedom rally in Concord (with Catherine Adair)
June 2012: religious freedom rally in Concord (with Catherine Adair)

We’re gathering on the anniversary of a special day in our nation’s history. Two Hundred Twenty-Three years ago today, James Madison gave Congress his proposal for the Bill of Rights. We’re here today in defense of the very first clause in the First Amendment: protection of the free exercise of religion.

In March, Americans in 140 cities including Concord stood up for religious freedom, moved by the Health and Human Services Mandate. Today, people are standing up in 160 cities. More and more Americans recognize that the mandate is not about women and not about a particular church. It’s about the federal government effectively rewriting the First Amendment.

Start with health care plans in which we all must participate under penalty of law. Make “preventive care” free to a patient, with no co-pay. Further, include contraception, abortive drugs, and female sterilization in the list of what is “preventive”. The result of such a plan: we all subsidize these procedures for the women who choose to use them.

What if I embrace a religious belief that says these things are immoral? What if I run a business and want to provide health insurance to my employees without subsidizing these procedures? What if I’m a woman who rejects the bad science & bad medicine behind the belief that a healthy woman’s body needs chronic chemical alteration?

Our president and our secretary of health and human services say “too bad,” and Congress is so far nodding meekly. Agree that women’s fertility is a disease, or else pay a penalty, they say.

We say “Go back to the drawing board.”

Our current President and his HHS Secretary tried unsuccessfully to buy off the Catholic church in America with an “exemption” for religious employers. They even tried to tell that church what a religious employer looks like: a business operated by a certain religion that serves only those of the same religion.

Stop right there. You have no right to tell me what my faith means, and you may not penalize me or my employer or my church for acting on our beliefs.

This is critical. Voters are watching. Any policy that pushes any religion to the margins and seeks to extract a penalty from its adherents is unconstitutional. If one religion is threatened, we are all threatened.

The Administration is welcoming comments from the public on the mandate, until June 19.  Here’s my comment – the same one I made in March: my faith is not a crime, a woman’s fertility is not a disease, and this mandate has got to go.  

I don’t like using the term “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The fact is that this health care law is neither protective nor affordable. It claims to protect my family’s health, but does so at the price of our First Amendment protections. It claims to be affordable, but in fact by threatening the operation of the most extensive health care network in the country – the network of religiously-affiliated health care facilities – it will restrict access to health care and thus drive up costs. Poor women, single mothers, and children with chronic illnesses will be hit first and hardest. “Affordable” would be a sick joke.

What do I want to see? An end to the mandate. You think pregnancy is a disease and women’s fertility should be suppressed? Go ahead and act on those beliefs for yourself, and make a co-pay. If you think a co-pay is a war on women, wait until you hear from the women who know the mandate is a war on religion. Do not expect me to call contraception & sterilization & abortive drugs “preventive.” Do not threaten to penalize people of faith because of their faith. You exercise your beliefs and let me exercise mine. That’s right – turn the clock all the way back to January 2012.

I am grateful that New Hampshire’s people of faith are getting support from some elected officials. I am grateful to religious leaders who have spoken peacefully and relentlessly against the mandate   But you and I would be wrong to depend on anyone else to carry the banner for us. We will be wrong to depend on a political party to fix everything. We will be wrong to expect a pastor to do our work for us. We each need to claim the protection of the Bill of Rights, without apology. We each need make our case to our neighbors who don’t yet understand what the fuss is about. It’s up to you and me as Americans to let our leaders know that we will not trade away the First Amendment for our family’s medical security, and we take a very dim view any politician who thinks we should.

Don’t wait for media coverage of this event and this debate. BE the coverage. Keep spreading the news.

I make a special appeal to people of faith who oppose this mandate and are in one of two specific callings: professional health care, and caring at home for a loved one with medical challenges. People who are pushing for this mandate are counting on you to back them up, or at least to stay silent. This is not the time for silence. You have experience and credibility. Tell the world what you know about health care, and what you know about your faith, and why this mandate interferes with both.

We are not alone in speaking out. On May 21, 43 plaintiffs filed a total of twelve lawsuits in various U.S. District Courts. Yesterday, when the White House had an online town hall meeting on women’s health and invited people to submit questions via Facebook, women opposing the mandate took to the Internet in Droves. It was ironic that the video feed showed a room full of women all on board with the “Affordable” Care Act – while the women speaking out on the Facebook feed were nearly all opposed to it, with the mandate being the #1 concern.

Take the encouragement you find here today and bring it to your town, your neighbors, your pastors, and especially your elected representatives. Thank you.

Friday Rally In Concord – Pass It On!

Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally, Concord NH, Federal Courthouse at the corner of Pleasant & South Streets, Friday 6/8 at noon. Go tweet that to your friends & neighbors and – this is important – your pastors & your elected representatives. Facebook it. Get on the phone about it. The event will last one hour. Signs will be available there. Bring your kids, & dress for the weather. Logistical details are at the end of this post.

I’ll ask nicely by adding PLEASE. But let’s not be so nice that we stay home. The HHS mandate is still coming as part of Obamacare, regardless of what you’ve heard about “accommodation” for religious institutions.  As with a similar rally day on March 23, people in over 130 U.S. cities will stand up on Friday and say no to the mandate.

Brief summary of life under the yet-to-be-fully-implemented mandate: Health insurance will be mandatory for all. Pregnancy will apparently be classified as a disease, since contraceptives and abortifacient drugs will be counted as “preventive care.” Preventive care will be free to the consumer, meaning all participants in the system will subsidize it via premiums. Institutions seeking exemptions on religious grounds can go whistle Dixie, since the federal government will be the sole arbiter of what is and is not a sufficiently “religious” organization.

The recent lawsuits filed in twelve federal courts by over 40 Catholic institutions against implementation of the mandate probably surprised a few D.C. bureaucrats. I hope they get surprised again when more lawsuits are filed, as other religious entities and people of faith realize that this mandate attacks all religions. Even our neighbors who profess no religious faith whatsoever have reason to be concerned when the First Amendment is threatened.

Litigation should never be a first response, of course, and these lawsuits were certainly not filed in haste. Catholic leaders sought a dialogue with the president and Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resolve their concerns. No dice.  The federal government and its workers, once mobilized, are loath to change course.

And so we take to the streets and the courts, peaceful and resolute. Please join me.

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Concord details: parking is not allowed in the courthouse lot or at Sacred Heart Church across the street, but on-street parking is available nearby. Bring a few quarters. The rally will be held on a sidewalk, without shelter or restrooms, so plan accordingly. If it’s a warm day, you’ll want to bring a bottle of water. And if you’re ready for lunch afterward, Concord’s Main Street has a number of options; if fast food is more your thing, head south on Main Street towards exit 13 for I-93.

 

Decisions: Lynch & Bass

The fetal homicide and partial-birth abortion bills would not die, despite grueling journeys through the New Hampshire House & Senate. Look up the dockets for these bills on the state web site sometime. A number of tales are hidden behind those dry factual entries.

And so, at long last, Governor Lynch will get these bills. I am telling every pro-life person I know to get those calls and emails going. The number is 271-2121, where I’m sure a very polite individual is waiting to take our calls. Lynch’s pleasant and understated persona is not enough to make me forget that he vetoed parental notification (and overriding that veto was one of the proudest moments for the legislative class of ’10). He has not made direct veto threats on either fetal homicide or partial birth, but on the latter, it’s a real stretch for me to believe he’ll support it.

As for fetal homicide, if Lynch can’t be persuaded by the state Supreme court’s Lamy case, he just can’t be persuaded.

The success of these bills so far is great news, and it shows what can be done with legislators who can think straight. As for the governor, we live in hope. What will he do?

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In Congress today, a bill called PRENDA came up for a vote, and fell short of the two-thirds that it needed. PRENDA stands for Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act, and it was written to ban sex-selection abortions. PP hates the bill, and the president has weighed in against it as well. When the dust settled this afternoon, only seven Republicans had voted against the bill. One was Charlie Bass, New Hampshire’s own Congressman from the Second District.

Bass is avowedly pro-choice, and has been for as long as I can remember. I used to testify in front of his committee when he was a state senator. But refusing to frown on sex selection? Really? Worldwide, most of the preborn children killed for being the “wrong” sex are girls. There’s a war on women for you.

This won’t help him in November, of course, since Ann Kuster will get the pro-Roe vote. Kuster’s mother, the late Susan McLane, served with Bass in the state senate years ago. McLane and Bass were both “pro-choice” Republicans. It is some kind of rough justice that pits McLane’s daughter against Bass now.

Backward & Forward

Custer went forward. Lemmings go forward. The Light Brigade went forward. And now, in an exquisitely apt marketing move, the incumbent president has chosen “Forward” as the slogan for his re-election campaign.

The vice-president, in a noisy visit to Keene State College a few days ago (why does he always wind up yelling at his audience, anyway?), pleased the youthful crowd by declaring “we will not go back to the 50s on social policy.”

So social policy shall move “forward” if the incumbent president is re-elected. Social policy includes abortion, which will remain legal if we choose to move “forward”. Not safe-and-rare, as former presidents have said in an effort to sound moderate.  Just legal, so we don’t go back to the bad old pre-Roe v. Wade days of back alleys & knitting needles and women dying.

Listening at one hearing after another in Concord this year on bills that touch on the life issues, I was struck more than once by how many of Roe’s defenders sounded scared of the future even as they said they were determined not to go back into the past.

Eugenic abortion was surely one of the twentieth century’s most ghastly ideas – one that belongs in the past, even when it’s prettied up with the euphemism “therapeutic.” Yet this year, I heard objections to New Hampshire’s fetal homicide bill (still in the balance, by the way, with yet another vote coming next week) based on the fear that it might interfere with selective reduction. Assisted reproductive technologies that call for implantation of multiple embryos in a woman’s womb also call for the culling of the surplus once pregnancy is established. Apparently, to protect the brave new world, he only way to face the future is by planting one foot firmly in the past.

A bill for informed consent for abortion prompted some women to recount heartbreaking stories of pregnancies gone tragically wrong, with fetal anomalies diagnosed prenatally. The mothers chose abortion, because it “wasn’t fair” to bring such a child into the world. So what’s wrong with informed consent? These women said they resented the assumption that abortion providers weren’t already being perfectly upfront. They also complained that the 24-hour waiting period in the bill would have caused them an additional 24 hours of anguish (with the unspoken corollary being that their anguish somehow subsided once their children were dead). Keep abortion quick and unregulated: no back-alley abortionist from the 1950s could have asked for more. Those shades of the 50s can rest easy, knowing that New Hampshire’s 2012 informed consent bill was killed.

New Hampshire public health officials do not collect abortion statistics, letting the abortion industry voluntarily provide whatever information it sees fit. A bill to require collection of statistics was passed this year after being amended into nearly-unrecognizable form, and now a committee will consider whether it’s a good idea to collect the statistics. (This is glacial progress, as opposed to incremental.) Who fought this one? Abortion providers.  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England along with the Feminist Health Center in Concord and the Lovering Center in Greenland all sent representatives to the hearings on this one. They all earnestly assured legislators that they DO report the number of abortions done at their facilities. Honest. They do not want oversight even to the extent of accounting for the number of procedures or reporting on morbidity and mortality to the women who have abortions. Again, the pre-Roe industry of illegal abortionists would approve wholeheartedly.

In the past, no one kept track of how many women suffered and died after abortion. Bernard Nathanson, MD, a founder of NARAL who later became a pro-life advocate, wrote candidly after leaving the abortion industry that NARAL leaders invented maternal-mortality figures in the late 1960s to try to build support for liberalization of abortion laws. To this day, we don’t know if legal abortion has been any safer for women. The same people who criticize anecdotal reports from pro-life sources, and demand hard figures, flee from those figures when they make their own arguments. (By the way, if you can find Nathanson’s book Aborting America, read it. It’s one of those basic books for the pro-life library.)

Moving forward, really forward, means we will want to know for sure how many women are being left to die or suffer permanent injury after abortion. We will want to know who is doing the procedures and we’ll want to know the safety record of the provider (granting that the babies always wind up dead). We’ll want to know at what point in pregnancy the terminations take place. We’ll want to do more for each other than recommend death when disability looms.

So, forward, Mr. Biden?

Week In Review, Days Ahead

Several topics and observations today. Something for everyone, I hope. Copy and forward as you wish.

Tenacity and patience have thus far kept a few important bills going. I expect that both the partial birth ban and fetal homicide bills will be scrutinized anew by House committees on Tuesday. The Senate amended both bills, and the House may choose to concur, requiring no further action except a trip to Governor Lynch’s desk, or request a committee of conference. Concurrence would be the right outcome, since the Senate amendments didn’t gut either bill.

Lynch’s spokesman was finally moved to take note of HB 217 (the fetal homicide) a few days ago, and his remarks were not encouraging.

Keep an eye on the Cornerstone Policy Research Facebook page and @nhcornerstone Twitter feed for Tuesday coverage of House committee votes on these bills.

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Nongermane amendments are nothing new in legislative work, rules or no rules. If leadership wants one, in it goes, productive or not. Such moves always seem like a good idea at the time, at least to the person making the amendment.

The Senate sent a late term abortion ban (HB 1660) to interim study. Not so fast, replied the House last Thursday. The ban was added as an amendment to a bill on pulse oximetry for newborns (SB 348) by a four-vote margin. Less than ten minutes later, the House reversed itself. The sponsor of SB 348, the indisputably pro-life Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker (R-Concord), pleaded for the main bill, stressing that the Senate would kill it if it contained the abortion amendment.

The nongermane amendment in this case resulted in nothing more than two confusing House votes. The proponents of late-term abortions can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that New Hampshire will continue to keep abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy.

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Filing period for the fall elections is coming up June 6-15. Details here. Some good pro-lifers have chosen not to run again, so anyone who wants to step up may find an open seat available.

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Mark your calendar for Friday, June 8th at noon. There will be a Standing Up for Religious Freedom rally outside the federal courthouse in Concord, where a similar rally was held a few months ago. As long as the federal HHS mandate is still part of Obamacare, religious freedom is under attack and no church is safe. See you there – and bring your kids, your neighbors, your minister, and even your state rep. I’ll be one of the speakers. (Please be there anyway.) There was a  Bush II era bumper sticker displayed back in the day by some disaffected voters: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Okay, then. Let’s all be utterly patriotic on June 8th.

a Granite State pro-life blog by Ellen Kolb