Bullying in Action: How Not to Represent a District

It has to be seen to be believed: a state representative in Pennsylvania posted video of himself harassing peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. See coverage here, at a link that will not give the rep the satisfaction of inflating his social media stats.

The prospect of such bullying here in New Hampshire is why I keep my phone with its camera handy whenever I’m participating in 40 Days for Life, and it’s why I think it’s a bad idea to witness alone even though I’ve sometimes done so.

The Pennsylvania politician has demonstrated how not to represent a district. That’s between him and the voters, or rather among him and the voters and the advocacy groups that will no doubt be dumping money into his next campaign.

Abby Johnson and the amazing team from And Then There Were None will respond on Friday, May 10 by going to the Pennsylvania facility where the politician performed his antics. They’ll stand with some of the same people berated by the state rep. He has therefore succeeded in intensifying the pro-life presence that so offended him in the first place.

And Then There Were None is calling this event #StandWithAbby, and they are calling on peaceful pro-life witnesses to go to the sidewalks outside their own local abortion facilities between 8 a.m. and noon on May 10.

Don’t think of it as standing with Abby, as stalwart a pro-lifer as she is. Instead, think of it as standing with the people who endured the state rep’s provocation.

From the event announcement:

Let’s stand together across this country on Friday in peaceful unity against the tactics of Rep. Sims and all those who bully prolife people, all those who bully women into abortion, and all those who want to bully our culture into accepting abortion as something good.
    
On Friday, May 10th, let’s stand together, in solidarity, for LIFE against bullies.
 
Here’s how: 
When: Friday, May 10, 2019
Time: Between 8am and 12pm
Where: Your local abortion clinic
What: To pray and give peaceful witness
How:   Be prepared to pray quietly (no bullhorns or yelling).                      Bring a Bible to read softly, rosaries, prayer cards, or other things that help you pray. You may make homemade signs to hold. If you do, we suggest writing  #IStandWithAbby or #StandWithAbby on them along with the websites ProLove.com or AbortionWorker.com. You can also find some ideas on what to put on your signs at   CheckMyClinic.org.

New Abortion Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee

“It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

Let those words roll around in your head for a moment. We’ll get back to them.

No, I’m not digging up my notes from HB 158, the abortion statistics bill killed by the New Hampshire House a few months ago. The quote that opens this post is from a hearing on another bill altogether, SB 111, on healthcare data. Having passed the state senate, SB 111 is now in the hands of the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee.

SB 111 was meant to be a housekeeping measure, revising and updating procedures for collection of various health-related data. Take a look at the fascinating NH Health WISDOM web site to get a sense of the kind of information the state tracks. SB 111 was introduced at the request of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Independently, it occurred to several people that with health care data up for discussion, DHHS’s lack of abortion data was a missing piece. Four representatives – Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), and Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead – drafted an amendment to SB 111 for the HHS committee to consider, basically adding abortion to the data covered by the bill.

That is not what DHHS had in mind. Thanks to my day job, I was present when the amendment was introduced at a subcommittee work session. I think “dismay” is the best word for the look on the faces of the DHHS staff present when they heard it.

Some of the state reps weren’t thrilled, either.

To make a long story short, the subcommittee declined to accept the amendment, and instead recommended that the bill as introduced be forwarded to the full HHS committee for a vote on May 7. When that day came, Rep. Stapleton politely brought up his proposed amendment (slightly tweaked and re-numbered since the subcommittee session). After a half hour of discussion, committee chair Rep. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole) decided to put off the vote on SB 111 and any amendments until the week of May 13.

That’s where it stands. I can say with confidence that the underlying bill is not in dispute. Any proposed amendment involving abortion statistics is another story. There are procedural objections to an amendment, but the substance is where one finds the real rub.

During the May 7 committee discussion, Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Keene) took note in the calmest of tones of what he called efforts around the country to restrict abortion. (Maybe if someone were to tell him about New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, he’d feel better.) Then came his summation about the amendment: “It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

His colleague, Rep. Susan Ticehurst, was noticeably agitated as she registered her opinion about the controversial amendment. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’re talking about data.”

Actually, we are. Abortion and data collection are not mutually exclusive. Data collection and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive, either, as SB 111 underscores: it covers many kinds of data the state has collected for years while protecting patient privacy.

Insistence on suppressing data collection regarding one condition suggests fear of what the data will show.

One rep stated that DHHS already collects abortion statistics, but I’m skeptical about that. I’m not aware of any mandatory reporting rule that has gone into effect at the freestanding facilities where most of New Hampshire’s abortions take place. (No one is seriously asserting that hospital records would tell the whole story.) Given the intense opposition from abortion-friendly reps to any suggestion that abortions be counted, I don’t believe New Hampshire makes a serious attempt at present to find out how many induced terminations of pregnancy are happening statewide.

DHHS officials needn’t lose sleep. I expect passage of SB 111, with no provision for abortion statistics. Still, I’m glad that a few representatives are willing to point out the missing piece .

Infanticide Without Representation

Want to change the stigma around infanticide? Easy: just rename it. The catch-all term “reproductive rights” will cover it. That’s the protocol that’s been adopted by my Member of Congress, at any rate.

Congressman Chris Pappas
Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH)

I recently sent an email message to Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) regarding the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. I asked him to support a discharge petition that would bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. I pointed out that the bill was about taking care of newborn children who survive attempted abortion. I said that I knew we disagreed on abortion, but surely we could find common ground on caring for infants.

What I received in return was an email from Pappas’s office about his support for reproductive rights. It was obviously a form letter, designed to address anything even remotely touching on abortion. Just one problem there: I hadn’t written to him about reproductive rights; I had written to him about caring for newborns.

Congressman Chris Pappas thinks caring for newborns is a threat to reproductive rights, if those newborns are the survivors of an attempt to kill them in utero. This is the man representing my district in Congress.

Here’s his message in full. Note well the contact information he kindly provides at the end.

Thank you for contacting me regarding reproductive rights. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me, as it helps me better represent you and New Hampshire’s priorities in Congress.

I believe that every American is afforded the right to privacy and should have the freedom to make personal decisions about their health care.  I am committed to ensuring that women have access to the full range of reproductive health care choices. As a nation, we should focus on our common ground and shared goals – educating our children on sexual health, bolstering economic opportunity, and protecting our civil liberties.

Access to proper health care should be a right, and when women are denied the freedom to make their own personal health care decisions we not only limit their liberties but also their economic opportunities. We owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to be as compassionate and understanding of their personal medical decisions as possible. Please know that I will keep your views in mind when considering legislation concerning reproductive rights.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on this important matter, and I look forward to keeping in touch. I strive to maintain an open dialogue with the people of New Hampshire about issues that matter to our state. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my Washington, DC office at (202) 225-5456 or my Dover office at (603) 285-4300. I also encourage you to keep up with the work I am doing by signing up for my weekly update at https://pappas.house.gov/contact/newsletter.

“We owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to be as compassionate and understanding of their personal medical decisions as possible.”  That sentence only makes sense in the context of the born-alive bill if you think infanticide is a “personal medical decision.” Someone else’s decision, of course; the doomed child has no voice.

“Access to proper health care should be a right…” Abortion isn’t health care, and neither is infanticide.

A change of heart is always possible, even for Members of Congress. My Congressman needs to hear from people who have enough compassion and understanding to assure him that’s it’s OK to support care for newborn children who have survived abortion.

More than once in the course of writing about life-issue legislation, I’ve asked a question: is a woman seeking abortion entitled to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? What happens when the induced abortion results not only in termination of pregnancy but in a live birth? In an uncharitable moment, I wrote that the dead-baby caucus was in charge.

I guess I was right.

In related news, the next Congressional election will be on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Your Tax Dollars At Work: $600K for PPNNE

With a nod to Cornerstone Action, and with full disclosure that I’m a Cornerstone communications consultant, let me link you to this morning’s headline from the Cornerstone blog: “Title X Grantees Announced.” Among the recipients of this federally-disbursed family planning money, with no messy intermediate stop at the New Hampshire Executive Council: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

From Cornerstone’s post:

[The federal Department of Health and Human Services] has announced grant awards for Title X family planning funds for the grant period of April 1st  2019- March 31st  2020 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be the recipient of $600,000 of taxpayer money.

As you may recall, President Trump’s new rule was rumored to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars to go to organizations that promote and administer abortion as a form of birth control.

…Not satisfied with federal dollars, Planned Parenthood continues their fight to secure your state taxpayer dollars 

https://www.nhcornerstone.org/latest-news/title-x-grantees-announced/

This round of 90 family planning grants for fiscal year 2019 does include some recipients of an abortion-free persuasion who had not received Title X money before, and it includes as always a lot of federally-qualified health centers which do not perform abortions. But please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion providers have been cut out of Title X. It just ain’t so.

Quick review: Title X [that’s Roman numeral ten, not letter X] is a federal program that funds “family planning” efforts. Title X funds, while federal, are usually block-granted to states, and the states decide which contractors can most effectively carry out the Title X requirements. Abortion is explicitly excluded from Title X activity.

That’s how it’s usually (not always) done in New Hampshire, with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) receiving the federal money, then seeking bids from contractors and submitting the resulting contracts to the Executive Council for approval. It’s common for up to eleven contracts to be awarded in New Hampshire, with each contractor covering a different part of the state. Most of the contractors are federally-qualified health centers, but three are abortion providers: the Equality Center in Concord, the Lovering Center in Greenland, and PPNNE.

Each of those abortion providers solemnly swears as part of the Title X contract that none of the money will be used for abortion. That’s the extent of the firewall. To my knowledge, no one has figured out how to divvy up the money between the abortion and non-abortion use for the utilities, equipment, office space, and staffing of a facility.

Therefore, taxpayers wanting to divest completely from involvement in the abortion industry are out of luck. You’d think a $23 million agency like PPNNE could figure out a way to separate out abortion from authentic health care: separate facilities, staff, accounts. But no. You’ve got civil rights, but the right not to subsidize abortion providers isn’t on the list.

There are two New Hampshire grantees in the latest round announced by the feds: the state HHS department, which will get $800,000 for Title X, and PPNNE, which has a $600,000 grant all to itself.

from https://www.hhs.gov/opa/grants-and-funding/recent-grant-awards/index.html

The state HHS grant for Title X will go through the usual state contract bidding process, ending with an Executive Council vote that will probably hand over the money to the usual contractors. (I’m guessing a 4-1 vote, but don’t hold me to that.)

The PPNNE Title X grant, on the other hand, goes directly to PPNNE. Does that mean PPNNE won’t reach for more money from general funds in the state budget, now being drafted? Big fat “no.” Check out this Concord Monitor article from last weekend.

Don’t blame one political party over another. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around. You can start by letting the President know what you think of the handouts from the federal HHS department. It’s an executive agency, and he’s Chief Executive.

Notes from NH Pro-Life Seminar

Here are a few quick items from the New Hampshire Knights of Columbus 2019 Pro-Life Seminar, with a tip of my cap to Ron DiStasio and his organizational team.

St. Gianna’s Place

StGiannaBanquetThree years ago, a dedicated group of Granite Staters began raising money and planning for a southern New Hampshire shelter for pregnant women in need of housing and other services. Last month, volunteers worked to renovate the former St. John parish rectory in Hudson, which is being converted to St. Gianna’s Place. Next month, applications for the first two residents will be considered.

Dennis Pedley of the St. Gianna’s board gave us this long-awaited good news. He also reminded us about the benefit banquet for St. Gianna’s, coming up on May 1 at the Executive Court in Manchester. See stgiannasplace.org for more information.

40 Days for Life

Sheila and Lisa of Manchester 40DFL accepted signups for the last two weeks of the current campaign, with all who accept the 40DFL Statement of Peace welcome to participate. Need signs, prayer partners, or more information? Look up your local campaign at 40daysforlife.com.

40 Days for Life volunteer
Lisa of 40 Days for Life Manchester NH

East Africa Charitable Projects Fund

Nick Monroe, a Knight from Newport, is one of the leaders of this charitable fund, founded in New Hampshire in 2014. Working with partners in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya, the fund supports educational, charitable, and faith-based projects. Learn more at  eacpf.wordpress.com.

CareNet of Manchester/Nashua Gets a New Name

CareNet has been serving Manchester and Nashua for many years. The ministry’s name is changing: Real Options is the new label, but it’s still a CareNet affiliate. The Manchester office is moving a block away from its longtime location on Bridge Street, to 25 Lowell Street.

Real Options CareNet newsletter

Save the dates for the Real Options Walks for Life: May 4 at Veteran’s Park in Manchester, and May 11 at Greeley Park in Nashua.

Our Place and “Love Prevails”

For more than 30 years, Karen Munsell has been the force behind Catholic Charities’s Our Place, providing help to pregnant and parenting teens and young adults. She reported that the program is going strong in Nashua and Manchester.

She also gave us news about a newly-published book by Jean Bosco Rutagengwa, “Love Prevails.” The author and his wife (who works at Our Place) are refugees from Rwanda, and the book is subtitled “One Couple’s Story of Faith and Survival in the Rwandan Genocide.” As Karen reminded us, “genocide is a life issue.” I’m looking forward to reading the book, published by Orbis and available on Amazon.

Etc.

This is only a sample of the people providing good information at the seminar. Make a calendar note to look for the 2020 edition next spring.

I got a few minutes of mic time – thank you, Ron – to promote a couple of projects: this blog (which turns seven this month; we need a party!), and something I’m doing with a colleague from Cornerstone Action, Concord 101, a two-hour introduction to New Hampshire government and how citizens can participate most effectively. That initiative will take me to about half a dozen towns over the next few weeks, and I’m looking forward to it.