Running the Numbers on the Override Votes

Anyone taking results for granted on next week’s override votes in New Hampshire is simply not paying attention.

Two-thirds of members present & voting in each chamber the day of the vote are required for an override. At the moment, even with the departure of Andy Sanborn, that still means 16 votes in the now-23-member Senate, which normally enjoys full attendance on session days. With the recent departures of Laurie Sanborn and D.J. Bettencourt in the House, there are 395 seats occupied, although attendance for floor sessions is usually substantially lower. (Corrections to that figure are welcomed. Resignations have kept the House below 400 members for most of this session.)

HB 1679, the partial-birth-abortion ban, passed the Senate 18-5, with Sen. DeBlois absent. Assuming no changes, even with the loss of Sanborn’s vote, the Senate will override. Ditto for HB 217, fetal homicide, which passed 18-6. That’s the good news.

The House is a different story, and since these override attempts will begin in the House, the Senate might not even get a crack at these bills. The vote hinges on three questions: will the Yea votes hold? Are any of the Nays reversible? Perhaps most significantly, how many reps will show up Wednesday?

HB 1679 passed the House 224-110, with a whopping 36 excused absences and 27 other reps simply choosing not to vote. HB 217 passed 213-125, with 47 excused absences and eleven other reps not voting. That means based on the attendance for these votes, HB 1679 reached a two-thirds majority by two votes. HB 217 was thirteen votes shy of two-thirds.

If everyone shows up for veto day – granted, that’s not likely – 264 votes are needed for override. Most challenging scenario: HB 1679 needs to hold all its previous Yeas, and add 40 more. HB 217 needs to pick up 51 votes on top of the original Yeas. Lower attendance in the House will mean fewer votes needed for override.

One hint to all the Republicans: do not count on any Democrats staying home. The minority party this session has been exemplary in its attendance and its unity. It’s actually remarkable that nine Democrats supported a ban on partial-birth abortion, while four supported the fetal homicide bill. Minority leader Terie Norelli is no doubt working to rope in those few stray votes.  Republicans were sharply fractured, despite leadership’s support for these bills: 27 voted against HB 1679; 42 opposed HB 217.

Phone calls and emails between now and the morning of June 27th could make the difference.

Lynch Strikes Again; Vetoes Fetal Homicide Bill

Late Monday afternoon, Governor Lynch vetoed House Bill 217 – the fetal homicide bill, Dominick’s Law. I have blogged about this bill many times. In response to the veto, I wrote the following statement today on behalf of Cornerstone Policy Research, where I serve as legislative affairs director.

 

By vetoing HB 217, the fetal homicide bill, Governor Lynch has managed to get three things wrong at once. He has misread the bill, he has ignored the reasonable concerns of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and he has done what he can to make sure that drunk drivers and abusive partners are not held responsible for actions that put an end to a woman’s wanted pregnancy.

The first concern the governor stated in his veto message was that the bill would allow the state to prosecute a pregnant woman for causing the death of the fetus. This is absolutely false. The first full paragraph of the bill is very clear: the bill does not apply to any act performed by a pregnant woman, or any act done with her consent, that causes the death of a fetus. This concern was raised and addressed repeatedly in the legislative hearings on this bill.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court in the 2009 case State v. Lamy was forced to overturn a drunk driver’s conviction for causing the death of Dominick Emmons, whose premature birth was triggered by injuries sustained by his mother in the collision, and whose death two weeks later was a result of the trauma he sustained. The unanimous decision of the Court included a plea to the legislature: “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.” The legislature did just that, and now Governor Lynch is inventing excuses to block this needed legislation.

Finally, while a woman has the legal right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, a woman’s choice to carry a pregnancy deserves respect and legal protection as well. Just as “viability” has no bearing in New Hampshire on the right to terminate a pregnancy, “viability” should have no bearing on the right to carry a pregnancy to term. Anytime a pregnant woman loses her baby against her will due to another’s wrongful act, a crime has been committed and the state should have the tools to respond accordingly. The family of Dominick Emmons surely knows that, the New Hampshire Supreme Court knows that, and the New Hampshire House and Senate know that. Governor Lynch’s refusal to bring New Hampshire law on this subject into the 21st century can best be met with an override.

Lynch Vetoes Partial-Birth Abortion Ban; Override to Be Attempted 6/27

Late Friday afternoon, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced his veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. The House and Senate will consider overrides to this and other vetoes on June 27.

After becoming the longest-serving New Hampshire governor in nearly two centuries, and after building a reputation as a moderate politician, he has chosen to end his tenure by defending the indefensible. John Lynch is pleasant, intelligent, cheerful, savvy, and friendly. But moderate? No politician who keeps the way clear for this kind of carnage is “moderate.”

The New Hampshire bill, HB 1679, was originally introduced by Rep. Ross Terrio (R-Manchester) as a ban on the partial-birth procedure and a ban on all late-term abortions. Soon after introduction, Terrio agreed to amend the bill so that it addressed only partial-birth. This put the bill in line with similar legislation in force in other states. The bill was drafted to complement federal law and to withstand court challenges. In a spirit of compromise and cooperation, supporters of the bill agreed to amendments that helped to build strong majorities for passage in House and Senate.

None of this figured into Governor Lynch’s veto. While beginning his statement with the assurance “I am not a proponent of so-called partial birth abortion”, he went on to reject the bill because he found it unnecessary and dangerous, in that order.

The federal ban means none is needed at the state level, according to the governor. He overlooked or ignored the fact that the federal law is only triggered if the partial-birth procedure is committed by a federal employee, or by someone on federal property, or by someone engaged in interstate commerce. He also made no mention of the fact that federal officials may choose not to enforce the federal law, leaving states without their own partial-birth bans helpless to stop the procedure.

Governor Lynch expressed fear that HB 1679 would jeopardize the life of a woman in emergency circumstances. He was critical of the bill’s requirement that two physicians agree that life-threatening conditions exist before a partial-birth procedure can be done. Getting that second opinion could cost a woman her life, he fears.

But how? The partial-birth ban would apply only to a particular procedure, not to all abortion methods. Any physician declaring an emergency could terminate a pregnancy without a second opinion, presumably with the pregnant woman’s consent, using any method other than the one that pulls the live child/fetus partway out of the woman’s body before “termination.” The governor’s objection sounds as though he means that women are at risk if that procedure is ruled out. (If the governor had true concern for women’s health and safety, he would direct the state department of public health to collect statistics on abortion in New Hampshire, so that he would have hard data to buttress any assertion that abortion is safe for women.)

Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose abortion. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales case, Roe did not establish a provider’s right to kill a child after assisting a woman in a vaginal delivery of a portion of the child’s body. Or should I say fetus’s? Tough call, when the child/fetus is half-in and half-out of the mother. In any case, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on the partial-birth procedure. The Court decided that while the ban prevented the performance of one particularly gruesome and inhumane procedure, it did not amount to a denial of a woman’s choice since alternative abortion methods are available. Note that the federal law and New Hampshire bill apply to abortion providers, not to women seeking termination of pregnancy.

Having issued the veto, John Lynch is beyond persuasion. Representatives and state senators are not.

The governor’s full statement on HB 1679 is at http://1.usa.gov/MdosTR

Friday Assortment: Run for Office, Wait for Vetoes, Watch the Court

If you want to run for state office as a member of a political party later this year, you have until 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, June 15) to file. The primary election will be held on September 11, and the general election follows on November 6. What’s your pleasure? State rep, maybe? Two bucks and a trip to your town clerk to fill out the paperwork will make you a candidate. Prospective delegates to the GOP state convention register with town clerks as well, with no filing fee. Other offices – state senate, executive council, county offices, governor, Congress – must file at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord.

A special note to my Republican readers: running to be a delegate to the state convention costs you nothing, and winning a seat requires nothing more than a couple of meetings. If the party platform matters to you, this is a job for you.

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Governor Lynch has begun plowing through the pile of bills on his desk, and he has found his veto pen. An education tax credit bill is the latest victim. The fetal homicide bill still awaits action. The House and Senate are scheduled to meet on June 27 to deal with vetoed bills.

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The current U.S. Supreme Court session will end in a couple of weeks, with a ruling expected on some aspects of the president’s health care plan. The unlikeliest outcome is that the plan will be struck down altogether. If that happy event comes to pass, the HHS mandate will be dead. The Court could find the plan constitutional in all aspects (perish the thought), or constitutional in part. In either of those situations, the lawsuits against the mandate will continue, challenging its inherent religious liberty violation.

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A “Fortnight for Religious Freedom” begins next Thursday, June 21, and ends on Independence Day, July 4. Organized by Catholics who have been moved to action by the mandate, the two-week observance is for anyone who’s ready to pray, study, and act to defend our First Amendment heritage.

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.