Big Talk, Then a Whimper: Senate Tables Born-Alive

The New Hampshire Senate has voted 14-10 along party lines to table SB 741-FN, a born-alive infant protection act.

Words vs. Actions

Before the tabling motion was made, Sen. Thomas Sherman (D-Rye) introduced the “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) motion made by the Health and Human Services Committee, of which he is chair. Sen. Sherman called the title of the bill “inflammatory and inaccurate,” said the bill “drives a false narrative,” and added that as a physician “I find this extremely offensive.”

Extremely offended or not, he joined his colleagues a few minutes later in tabling the bill, rather than pressing for a vote on his ITL motion.

Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) emphasized that the bill came down to one question: “isn’t a baby who is born alive a person, no matter what the circumstances of their birth?”

Rather than answering the question, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) responded by moving to table the bill. In parliamentary terms, a tabling motion sets the bill aside, is non-debatable, and takes precedence over an ITL motion. In practical terms, the tabling motion short-circuited further consideration of the bill, and prevented a vote on Sen. Sherman’s ITL motion.

Affirm the right of every newborn to care, regardless of circumstances of birth? Nope.

A constituent of Sen. Cindy Rosenwald forwarded to me an email the senator sent in reply to a plea to support SB 741-FN. “I hope you will be comforted to know that every person who is born is alive and receives full legal protections.” (There’s an extra “and” in there, no doubt due to hasty typing. I know how that goes.) The senator had a chance with SB 741-FN to add enforcement provisions to “legal protections.” She chose not to, joining her colleagues in punting – er, voting to table.

A vote to remove the bill from the table is unlikely.

Roll Call

Voting to table SB 741-FN, all Democrat party, with district number and hometown: Sens. David Watters (4-Dover), Martha Hennessey (5-Hanover), Jeanne Dietsch (9-Peterborough), Jay Kahn (10-Keene), Shannon Chandley (11-Amherst), Melanie Levesque (12-Brookline), Cindy Rosenwald (13-Nashua), Dan Feltes (15-Concord), Kevin Cavanaugh (16-Manchester), Donna Soucy (18-Manchester), Lou D’Allesandro (20-Manchester), Martha Fuller Clark (21-Portsmouth), Jon Morgan (23-Brentwood), Thomas Sherman (24-Rye.)

Voting against the tabling motion, all Republicans with district number and hometown: Sens. David Starr (1-Franconia), Bob Giuda (2-Warren), Jeb Bradley (3-Wolfeboro), James Gray (6-Rochester), Harold French (7-Franklin), Ruth Ward (8-Stoddard), Sharon Carson (14-Londonderry), John Reagan (17-Deerfield), Regina Birdsell (19-Hampstead), Chuck Morse (22-Salem).

House Bill: Awaiting Committee Vote

The House’s version of born-alive legislation, HB 1675, will have a committee vote on March 4.

Surprise! Senate Wants to Rush ITL on Born-Alive Bill

The New Hampshire Senate’s born-alive infant protection bill, SB 741-FN, faces an Inexpedient to Legislate recommendation when the Senate meets on Thursday, February 13. The vote will come only two days after a committee’s ITL vote.

This is a rush job that I would have missed if the bill’s sponsor hadn’t alerted me today. She was surprised, too. The Senate does not normally act on bills within two days of committee action. I don’t care how busy they are; that kind of move doesn’t give the public much of a heads-up.

Action Alert

So don’t bother with letters and postcards. The Senate decided to rush this one. Call your Senator. Senators provide only office numbers on the General Court web site, no personal ones, so I hope their administrative support staff – which amounts to one person for every three Senators or so – is ready to take messages.

Simple message, really: overturn the committee recommendation, and vote Ought to Pass on SB 741, please and thank you. Short, clear, polite.

Here’s the Senate roster, and here’s the “who’s my senator?” link.

Related: my earlier post on this year’s House and Senate bills on born-alive infant protection.

Wanna Watch?

The Senate session begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 13th. SB 741-FN is the third item on the agenda. The session is open to the public, with the gallery entrance on the second floor of the State House.

Note that the Senate gallery is much smaller than the House’s gallery. Access is via a narrow stairway.

The session will be live-streamed as well. Click on the Streaming Media link near the upper right of the General Court home page.

Committee Action

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-2 along party lines on February 11 to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate on SB 741-FN. The bill calls for medically appropriate and reasonable care for any child born alive, including children who survive attempted abortion.

Voting Inexpedient to Legislate, recommending that the bill be killed: Democrats Thomas Sherman (District 24, Rye), Martha Fuller Clark (District 21, Portsmouth), and Shannon Chandley (District 11, Amherst).

The Republicans on the committee, both of them co-sponsors of SB 741-FN, voted against the ITL recommendation: Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro and James Gray of Rochester.

Tale of the Docket

The illustration above is a screenshot from the docket, or official online record of action, for SB 741-FN. Of interest is the last line within the green box, which documents the astoundingly rushed nature of this scheduled Senate vote.

2/11/2020 is the date of the most recent action, the committee vote with its “inexpedient to legislate” report. (The “S” column simply means “Senate.”) Next to that is the date 2/13/2020 and “SC 6A.” That means the Senate will vote on February 13 as recorded in volume 6A of the Senate Calendar.

Two days: make the best of them.

Assisted suicide bill gets House hearing February 12

A New Hampshire assisted suicide bill will have its first public hearing on Wednesday, February 12, at 1 p.m. Like several other 2020 bills affecting the right to life, HB 1659-FN will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee in Representatives Hall.

If you don’t think assisted suicide should be considered a form of medical care, the committee needs to hear from you. Coming to the hearing will be worthwhile, if only to sign in against the bill. There’s a strong coalition coming together to fight HB 1659-FN, so you’ll be in good company.

One of the things that bothers me about this bill is its abuse of the English language. The bill allows for “a prescription for lethal medication which will allow the patient, if the patient chooses to do so, to self-administer and thus control the time, place, and manner of death.” Five pages later, this: “Actions taken in accordance with this chapter shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide, under the law.”

Go figure.

For a summary of the problems the bill would cause, let me direct you to Cornerstone Action’s post “Caring, Not Killing.” (Full disclosure: I’m a communications consultant for Cornerstone.) In brief:

  • Assisted suicide laws exploit medically vulnerable individuals.
  • Passing an assisted suicide law sends a confounding and false message to anyone considering suicide: your life is only as valuable as you think it is.
  • Passage of an assisted suicide law, however carefully drawn, will open the door to wider use. There is no way to make assisted suicide into a form of “medical care” without opening it up to anyone who wants it, with or without a terminal condition.

Read the full post here.

I will attend the HB 1659-FN hearing on Cornerstone’s behalf. Come say hi and pick up a sticker.

N.H. Coalition Against State-Approved Suicide sticker
The N.H. Coalition Against State-Approved Suicide will have these stickers available at the hearing on HB 1659-FN.

Abortion Amendment gets thumbs down in committee

The House Judiciary Committee this morning voted 18-2 to send an “inexpedient to legislate” recommendation to the full House on CACR 14, the proposed abortion amendment to the New Hampshire constitution. The full House will vote on the measure later in February.

CACR 14 says, “The right to make personal reproductive medical decisions is inviolate and fundamental to the human condition. Neither the State nor any political subdivision shall infringe upon or unduly inconvenience this right.” As I wrote earlier before the committee hearing on the amendment, CACR 14 would bake abortion into the New Hampshire constitution.

Heard at the executive session

Before the Judiciary committee voted on the amendment, there was some public discussion among the members, as is typical of an executive session. Even some stalwart defenders of protecting abortion as a “reproductive right” had issues with CACR 14 as drafted.

Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) said that the amendment as written was “contradictory, confusing, and could lead to unintended consequences.” Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), committee chair, called CACR 14 “not carefully drawn.”

Two members of the committee, Reps. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham) and Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham), voted against the ITL motion. Horrigan called concerns over the amendment, including its effect on public funding, “vastly overblown.”

Several committee members with pro-life records commented as well. Rep. Jason Janvrin said, “This conflicts with at least four articles in our state constitution.” Rep. Gary Hopper (R-Weare) brought up the interesting point that the amendment doesn’t mention the gender of a person exercising “reproductive medical decisions.” Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) noted “three to four hundred [email] responses from the public, 90% skewed to the No side.”

In praise of composing one’s own message

Rep. Smith spoke with some asperity about form emails sent to the committee, where an identical message shows up over and over again, each from a different email address.

Such messages are actually composed by an interest group. They don’t allow for personal messages. They annoy the living daylights out of Rep. Smith (and no doubt many of her colleagues). I can’t blame her.

Better to send one single line from yourself – even as simple as “please vote ITL on CACR 14; thank you!” – than let some group use your name on a form email that is more than likely to be deleted by the recipient.

Next step

CACR 14 will go to the full House at a date yet to be determined, but likely to be the third week in February. Concerned voters should contact their state representatives (not senators) and ask them to vote in favor of the committee recommendation on CACR 14, which is “inexpedient to legislate.” (I’ll put a call to action on the blog’s Facebook page as soon as I know the date of the vote.)

The roll call

The motion in committee was “inexpedient to legislate,” made by Rep. Berch, seconded by Rep. Janvrin.

Supporting the ITL motion, therefore in favor of killing CACR 14:

Reps. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland), Anita Burroughs (D-Glen), Wendy Chase (D-Rollinsford), Charlotte DiLorenzo (D-Newmarket), Edward “Ned” Gordon (R-Bristol), Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown), Gary Hopper R-Weare), Jason Janvrin (R-Seabrook), Sandra Keans (D-Rochester), Cam Kenney (D-Durham), Diane Langley (D-Manchester), Mark McLean (R-Manchester), Charles Melvin (R-Newton, sitting in for the absent Rep. Joe Alexander), Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), Deb Stevens (D-Nashua), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), David Woodbury (D-New Boston), Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford).

Not supporting the ITL motion, therefore in favor of passing CACR 14: Reps. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) and Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham). Rep. Horrigan intends to file a minority report, ensuring a House floor debate on the amendment.