The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee will have a public hearing on SB 741-FN, a born-alive infant protection bill, on Tuesday, February 4 at 3:20 p.m. in room 100 of the State House. This is the Senate version of HB 1675-FN, which was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 29.
Chief sponsor of SB 741-FN is Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead). She is joined by eight Senate co-sponsors and four House co-sponsors.
Unlike most House committees, a Senate committee may vote on a bill immediately after the hearing. For contact information for the senators who will hear SB 741-FN, see the “email entire committee” link on the Senate HHS committee’s information page.
The two bills are not in competition with each other. If the House turns down its version, the Senate might still approve its own – and yes, that’s optimistic, but it’s a way to ensure that the public has at least two chances to call for statutory protection for children who survive attempted abortion. Opposition to infanticide shouldn’t be a tough call.
Thereby hangs a cautionary tale.
White coats at the House hearing
(Corrected 2/3/2020 to show correct surname of ACOG representative.)
What can senators expect to hear on February 4? Consider what happened at the House committee hearing on HB 1675. (I’ll drop the “FN” for the remainder of this post; it means “fiscal note” and has no bearing on the bill’s underlying subject matter.)
The Union Leader’s Kevin Landrigan wrote about “four” abortion bills that had hearings on January 29 – although one of those bills, HB 1675, was about children already born and thus was not an abortion bill. Mr. Landrigan’s story included a photo he took at a press conference held by abortion advocates that day.
Tucked in between pink-clad PP supporters and red-clad “handmaidens” were several women in white coats. I learned at the born-alive hearing that they were medical doctors and medical students with coats embroidered with Dartmouth Hitchcock emblems.
The white-coated women drew no distinction among the four bills reported upon by Mr. Landrigan. I was at the born-alive hearing, and I saw they were there to oppose that bill – a bill that would impose upon them a specific duty to care for newborn children who have survived attempted abortion, with penalties for failure to do so.
One of the women in white was identified in the Union Leader story as Dr. Ellen Joyce, chair of the state chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. According my notes from the hearing, she called the born-alive bill “dangerous” and “ill-advised,” said it “seeks to solve a problem that does not exist,” and added that the legislation’s “false claims” tended to undermine the public’s trust in OB/GYNs.
I bit my tongue and forbore telling her that for me, that particular horse left the barn awhile ago. Trust, indeed.
No abortion survivors were present to challenge the “false claims” narrative. Their advocates showed up, though.
“I’m here today for Gianna Jessen.”
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (R-Derry), drew the committee’s attention to the text of her bill, calling only for “medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment” for infants who survive abortion. She cited Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen as two survivors. Are there survivors in New Hampshire? “We can’t know that there are not,” she said. New Hampshire doesn’t provide the Centers for Disease Control with any abortion data, including post-abortion complications, and surely a surviving child would be a statistical complication. The sponsor asked that since we don’t know if there are abortion survivors here, why not err on the side of life?
Ohden and Jessen have made it into this blog before. For many years, they have been very open about how they were not-quite aborted. They know that some children are born alive after attempted abortion, because that’s how they were born. Ohden founded the Abortion Survivors’ Network, and now more than 260 people have shared with her their own stories of abortion survival.
Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack) picked up that theme: “I’m here today for Gianna Jessen.” She got the same question as did Rep. Prudhomme-O’Brien: does it happen here? She reminded the committee of what the sponsor had said: we can’t know, under New Hampshire’s current no-stats-to-the-CDC policy. She noted the plethora of animal rights bills being considered by the House this session, and suggested that human babies deserve as much consideration.
Plenty of people testified in favor of the bill, even as various committee members played their favorite card repeatedly: what makes you think this happens in New Hampshire? Toward the end of the hearing, after the ACOG representative had testified, I heard a supporter of the bill cut short by a committee member, who shifted from question to statement: we’ve had medical testimony that this doesn’t happen.
From now on, whenever I hear an abortion advocate saying “trust women,” I’m going to remember the women in white from the hearing on HB 1675. I’ll also remember Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen. The survivors simply have more credibility with me.
Perhaps only meeting survivors in person will ever win over white-coated women who take time away from work and school to argue against a bill to protect newborns who are born despite efforts to abort them. Maybe only a survivor can win over a skeptical legislator.
Until then, I’m glad to know there are legislators willing to be advocates for survivors who can’t be at the State House to plead their own cause.
Born-alive legislation is irrelevant to Roe v. Wade. It addresses a situation that occurs after a woman exercises choice. It does not affect an abortion provider’s rightful duty to care for the woman undergoing an abortion. It’s about infanticide. And still, here in New Hampshire, the prospect of a born-alive law scares some people senseless.
It’s as though some of the people in the hearing room were afraid that care is a zero-sum thing, and that any care given to an abortion-survivor newborn must necessarily mean less care, even contempt, for the woman whose pregnancy has just been terminated.
Anyone ready for a paradigm shift?
Hearings, then votes
The House Judiciary Committee has not yet voted on HB 1675. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is free to vote on SB 741 immediately after its hearing on February 4, although a delay is possible. Dates for votes in the full House and Senate will be determined after the committees make their recommendations.