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.

 

“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.