Week In Review: NH Senate Bats .400

I understand the importance of gratitude as much as the next person. As a lobbyist, I forget it at my peril. So thank you, senators. And now permit me to quibble.

The New Hampshire Senate passed two bills that are years overdue: a ban on partial-birth abortions (HB 1679) and a bill to examine the possibility of collecting abortion statistics (HB 1680). Great news, momentous victories – and you probably have to have been around Concord as long as I have to appreciate just how momentous. Persistence pays off. Three other bills with pro-life implications met worse fates: killed, tabled, interim study. 

When I’m up in the gallery cheering for five bills and two of them pass, it’s a good day, even though one newspaper headline said pro-lifers were “crushed.” Crushed? Not so much. I will, however, admit that my happiness was alloyed with a strong dose of the annoyance only an ex-Republican can understand.

The five Democratic senators were solidly opposed to four of these bills. (The stats bill passed on a voice vote.) The Republicans, as usual with pro-life bills, were all over the place. The one bill that earned unanimous Republican support was the partial-birth ban. When the day’s session was over, the minority leader, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, made a short speech on the Senate floor, paying tribute to majority leader Sen. Jeb Bradley for the way Bradley had handled the difficult votes (meaning the pro-life bills). D’Allesandro is a gentleman, and I have no doubt he was speaking from the heart.

But wait a minute here. Why was it such a big deal that a Republican majority leader got all of his caucus to support a bill to ban an abortion method that shades into infanticide? What is so controversial about that? Who had to be persuaded? (And why does the Democratic party defend partial-birth abortion?)

We can actually make fair guesses of who had to be persuaded by looking at bills that fell short. HB 228, to keep state money away from abortion providers, was tabled 17-6 (Sen. DeBlois was absent); HB 1660, to stop abortions after 20 weeks, went sent to interim study 15-8; HB 1659, Women’s Right to Know/informed consent/24-hour wait before abortion was ITL’d (killed) 12-11.


Exactly FIVE senators supported all these bills: Jim Forsythe, Fenton Groen,  Ray White,  Gary Lambert, and Jack Barnes, It pains me to know that Forsythe & White have decided not to run for re-election.

On the other hand, six GOP senators voted against everything except the partial-birth ban: John Gallus, Jeb Bradley (yes, the majority leader), Bob Odell, Dave Boutin, Jim Rausch, and Nancy Stiles. Call them the hard-line six. Gallus has announced his retirement. The others are likely to seek reelection.

That leaves seven GOP senators whose votes were scattered.

  • There’s no doubt that HB 228 was tabled in response to the threat of a loss of Medicaid funds to the state if the bill should pass. I hate seeing that kind of timidity in any elected official, and I’m pleased that Sens. Forsythe, Groen, Andy Sanborn, White, Gary Lambert, & Jack Barnes voted against being bullied.
  • The rejection of the informed consent bill should raise the ire of every pro-life voter who has ever written a check to the GOP. Andy Sanborn told me that he had a hard time with this one, but he concluded that the 24-hour wait was too great an intrusion by government into a woman’s rights. He joined the “hard-line six” and the Democrats to make the twelfth and deciding vote. The 11 senators who got this one right: Jeanie Forrester, Forsythe, Groen, White, Peter Bragdon, Jim Luther, Lambert, Sharon Carson, Barnes, Chuck Morse, Russell Prescott.
  • A senator told me privately a week before the session that the post-20-week ban would probably not pass. “It’s that or partial-birth. We can’t get both.” Eight GOP senators did the right thing by opposing the motion to send the bill to interim study: Forsythe, Groen, White, Bragdon, Luther, Lambert, Barnes, Morse.  

This confirms what I already knew about writing checks to the GOP. Don’t do it, since the money will go to the likes of the hard-line six. Individual candidates would be happy to hear from pro-life donors.

Postscript: Shortly after the Senate rejected HB 1659, the House attached it as an amendment to one of the bills it is considering. I won’t venture a guess as to HB 1659’s final outcome. There’s a bit of a struggle going on between House & Senate that goes way beyond the pro-life bills. I only hope that the partial-birth bill, which must go to the House for agreement with an amendment, won’t fall victim to the tension.

Mandate Rationale? Try Checking Under the Penumbra

Back in 1965, Justice Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote for the majority in the Griswold case that the right to privacy, while not explicit in the U.S. Constitution, could be derived as an “emanation” within the “penumbra” of enumerated rights. (That’s his language, not mine.) Emanations and penumbras can of course be toxic, as we learned in ’73 when Roe was handed down, buttressed by Griswold’s reasoning.

Forty-seven years later, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is apparently all on board with penumbras. She was on Capitol Hill yesterday to face Congressional questioning. One bold soul asked her how she decided the HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate could square with religious liberty. Madam Secretary’s reply:

“Congressman, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the constitutional balancing tests […] I am not going to wade into constitutional law, I’m talking about the fact that we are implementing a law that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, which directed our department to develop a package of preventive health services for women. We have done just that with the advice of the Institute of Medicine, and promulgated that rule.”

I am indebted to Calvin Freiburger (here) and his unbeatable commentary on that answer, published in Live Action News today:
“Note well that the combination of congressional votes, presidential signatures, and the opinion of the Institute of Medicine amount to somewhere between nada and zilch when it comes to constitutional law.”

How to Mount An Effective Counter-Demonstration

Our stalwart neighbors at PPNNE are excitedly tweeting about a rally in NH to be held Saturday: a Unite Against The War On Women Rally! (Exclamation point theirs.)

I am not going to call for a counter-demonstration. NH pro-lifers had one yesterday: the state senate passed a ban on partial-birth abortion – a bill that PPNNE fought tooth & nail from the day it was introduced. Yesterday’s vote was the fruit of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

That’s my kind of demonstration.

Your move, Governor Lynch

Two pro-life bills were passed by the New Hampshire Senate today, and the sky didn’t fall. 

The NH Senate passed HB 1679 today on a straight party-line vote, agreeing with the House that it is not a good idea for New Hampshire to put out the welcome mat for practitioners who want to do late-term abortions by the “partial-birth” method, also known as D&X. Partial-birth abortion is as close to infanticide as can be managed. Banning the method saves no babies, and Roe is unscathed. Nevertheless, this is a momentous day. The New Hampshire legislature, for the first time since NH’s 19th-century abortion laws were repealed a few years ago, has said “no” to one abortion method.

A bill to collect abortion statistics (HB 1680) was amended and attenuated to the point where it now sets up a committee to study how to collect the stats. The House passed it, and the Senate today adopted it on a voice vote.

Three other bills fared less well in the Senate today, but got further this year than could have been hoped in earlier sessions. Women’s Right to Know (HB 1659, with a 24-hour waiting period before abortion) was killed by the Senate, but just hours later the House attached it as a nongermane amendment to another bill. That was fun. Not sure how the Senators will feel having it tossed back at them, but we’ll see. HB 1660, to stop abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, went to interim study. HB 228, the funding bill, was tabled.

Of course, WMUR tweeted “Senate blocks House-passed abortion bills.” No tweets about the passage of the partial-birth ban. New Hampshire’s news leader, I’m told …

Governor Lynch should weigh in on the two successful bills shortly. Place your bets.

Funding Vote Tomorrow: Any “Choice” Here?

Live and let live? Promote choice? Sure. Let’s start by saying that while abortion is legal, taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for it. We’ll see tomorrow if at least 13 senators can get behind that.

Whatever tomorrow’s outcome, HB 228 has been a triumph.

This bill would let pro-life New Hampshire residents keep their money away from abortion providers. Several sponsors, led by Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester), have kept the bill going since February 2011. Dogged persistence and some nimble legislative footwork have brought the bill through multiple hearings, delays, amendments, an attempt to kill it on the House floor, and finally House passage last January. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. The Health and Human Services committee voted to recommend the bill by the slimmest of margins (3-2).

The meat of the bill, as of today: “The department shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs non-federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed; provided that this paragraph shall not apply to any hospital.” So hospitals are exempt. The feds’ “qualified abortions” are exempt. No provider is singled out, although PPNNE is bitterly characterizing the bill as an attack on its business. The bill’s backers have time and time again been responsive to constructive suggestions.

State reps have started looking at the business models of abortion providers. They are questioning the statistics being tossed around by those providers (“…only 3 to 5 percent of our business is abortion,” says PPNNE’s lobbyist), which has helped to boost support for collecting statistics via HB 1680. In the House, reps were willing to push back against threats of litigation.

And while Planned Parenthood is not mentioned in the current version of the bill, PPNNE is sure acting like the bill is all about them. They warn darkly of a loss of federal funds and denial of “critical health services” if this bill passes.

Consider the source: PPNNE’s 2010 annual report indicates $3.1 million spent on administration; $822,000 on public policy, including the aforementioned lobbyist; $445,000 on marketing. And they warn of having to turn women away if HB 228 passes?

The senators are under pressure. PPNNE and NARAL Pro-Choice NH have ramped up their networks, and I expect to see lots of “Trust Women” and “I Stand With PP” stickers in the hall outside the Senate chamber tomorrow morning. $822,000 buys a lot of stickers. Do not expect a straight GOP/Dem split on this one (or any of the other pro-life bills on the calendar, with the possible exception of the stats bill).

When the dust has settled, regardless of the outcome, no one running for re-election next fall will be able to dodge fallout from this vote. That’s as it should be.