Thumbs Up to Pregnancy Care Centers, I Hope

The NH Senate HHS committee held its hearing on HCR 31 today and approved it 4-1. This resolution commending the work of pregnancy care centers (PCCs) called forth the usual naysayers, but they were far outshone this afternoon by three outstanding advocates.

In case “pregnancy care center” is ambiguous – poor Sen. Kelly couldn’t quite come to terms with it – let me explain: it is a place where pregnant women in crisis can come for anything except abortion. Anyone can come through the door for information, counseling, and practical assistance, whether pregnant or not, whether male or female. CareNet is the most famous example of a pregnancy care center, with several CareNets operating in NH. Most services are free, and in NH, CareNet relies on private donations and an extensive volunteer network. Medical professionals assist with ultrasounds, and referrals to obstetric care are available.

Kathleen Molway of Concord CareNet and Katherine Anderson, RN, of the Pregnancy Resource Center of the Monadnock Region told the senators about the work they do and the women they serve. Jeanneane Maxon, AUL’s VP of External Affairs and a former general counsel to CareNet, offered information about PCC policies and support nationwide. By the time these three women were finished giving their calm and straightforward testimony, opponents of the resolution sounded pathetic. Terms like “anti-choice” and “deceptive” rang pretty hollow once Kathleen, Katherine, & Jeanneane had spoken.

HCR 31 had ten co-sponsors, led by Rep. Kathy Lauer-Rago (R-Franklin).  Full Senate action will come sometime later this month. In the meantime, I recommend writing a check to your local PCC, Birthright, or even Americans United for Life. You’ll be doing some good and you’ll be annoying all the right people.

NH Senate Calls Time-Out on HB 217

The NH Senate has put off its vote on the fetal homicide bill until next week. A senator speaking off the record before today’s session told me that Dartmouth-Hitchcock has raised concerns about how the bill might affect the practice of in vitro fertilization. The senators are taking some time to deal with this.

This snag came as a surprise to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester), who found out about it just before the Senate session today.

I have not spoken to anyone from Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and so I don’t claim to understand their objections. I have some ideas of my own, though.

Why on earth would in vitro fertilization figure be affected by a fetal homicide bill? I know that “selective reduction”, the abortion of “surplus” fetuses, is now considered part of pregnancy management following assisted reproduction such as IVF. That’s a ghastly practice, but it doesn’t figure into HB 217. The bill refers only to fetal deaths from wanted pregnancies. If a mother has signed an IVF agreement and the physician later performs one of these “selective reductions”, there would be no crime under a fetal-homicide bill because the mother would have OK’d the abortion.

Of course, if these selective abortions are being committed without a mother’s consent, that’s another story. I doubt, however, that any reproductive endocrinologist or obstetrician would proceed with IVF or a similar procedure without getting a woman’s signature on a consent form. And this might not be Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s concern anyway. We’ll see.

I’m looking forward to next week’s vote, and I’ll be keeping an eye on Friday’s Senate calendar to see if and how the bill is amended.

EMILY’s List backs Hassan

EMILY’s List has endorsed Maggie Hassan for NH Governor. Does anyone still think the life issues are irrelevant to November’s elections?

“EMILY” is an acronym for Early Money is Like Yeast. This PAC describes itself as “a national organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.” I have no doubt that the pro-life counterpart, the Susan B. Anthony List (www.sba-list.org), will be watching New Hampshire intently.

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.”