Buffer zone repeal & stats votes in Senate Thursday 5/5

HB 1570, the buffer zone repeal bill, has been rushed onto the New Hampshire Senate’s agenda for this week. The bill is now scheduled for a vote Thursday, May 5, at a session beginning at 10 a.m. The revised Senate calendar also indicates that the abortion statistics bill, HB 629, will be up for a vote at the same session.

The Senate gallery accommodates several dozen people and is open to the public during Senate sessions. Access (requiring stairs) is on the second floor of the State House on the north side, on the opposite side of the building from Representatives’ Hall.

A similar repeal bill was tabled last year after an ought-to-pass motion failed on a tie vote. The same Senators are in office this year.

What you can do

  • Be in the gallery on Thursday. Be aware that the agenda is subject to changes that are beyond the public’s control, and any bill might be removed from the schedule.
  • Contact Senators with a brief and courteous message: “Support Ought-to-Pass on HB 1570 as introduced and OTP on HB 629 as amended by the House.”  If you send email, put “OTP on HB 1570 and HB 629” in the subject line; sometimes that’s all a legislator reads. If you speak to your own Senator, mention that you are a constituent. Note that some Senators have Facebook pages; you can contact them that way, too.
  • Share this information with every pro-life and pro-First-Amendment friend you have. Make sure the Senators know we’re watching.

Contact information for Senators is at this link; find out which district you live in at this link.

Last year’s repeal vote, so you know where they stood:

This is how Senators voted, as reported on the blog last year. 
Voting to repeal the buffer zone law: Senators Jeanie Forrester of Meredith (district 2), Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro (dist. 3), Sam Cataldo of Farmington (dist. 6), Andy Sanborn of Bedford (dist. 9), Gary Daniels of Milford (dist. 11), Kevin Avard of Nashua (dist. 12), Sharon Carson of Londonderry (dist. 14), David Boutin of Hooksett (dist. 16), John Reagan of Deerfield (dist. 17), Regina Birdsell of Hampstead (dist. 19), Chuck Morse of Salem (dist. 22), and Russell Prescott of Kingston (dist. 23). Bradley was one of the sponsors of the original buffer zone law, but he supported repeal in 2015.

Voting to  keep the buffer zone law in place: Senators Jeff Woodburn of Dalton (district 1), David Watters of Dover (dist. 4), David Pierce of Lebanon (dist. 5), Andrew Hosmer of Laconia (dist. 7), Jerry Little of Weare (dist. 8), Molly Kelly of Keene (dist. 10), Bette Lasky of Nashua (dist. 13), Dan Feltes of Concord (dist. 15), Donna Soucy of Manchester (dist. 18), Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester (dist. 20), Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth (dist. 21), and Nancy Stiles of Hampton (dist. 24).

State senators need to hear from you on abortion stats

New Hampshire is moving closer to an abortion statistics bill, but the effort has apparently not yet attracted support from the 13 senators required to send the bill to Governor Hassan. Several sources have reported to me that thirteen votes for “ought to pass” on HB 629 are far from assured. The bill has not yet been scheduled for floor action.


Please contact state senators as soon as possible and urge support for HB 629. It’s time for New Hampshire to join almost all of its sister states in collecting and reporting abortion statistics to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Find all Senators’ contact information HERE. The phone numbers at that link go to the Senate offices.  At this point, calls will be more effective than emails or letters. Make a special effort to contact your own senator via phone or in person. Find your district HERE. Each senator needs to know that voters care enough about women’s health to insist on passage of HB 629. 

Privacy concerns recently expressed by at least one House opponent of the bill are a red herring. The confidentiality of a woman’s identity is preserved under the terms of stats laws nationwide and in HB 629 itself.  About four dozen other states have already served as a lab for this.

At least one House member has raised questions about the cost of the bill, estimated by the Division of Vital Records to be up to (not “at least”) $130,000. This is NOT a budget-buster. If the current budget has no room for this public health measure, the line item can be included in the next budget, if House and Senate agree for the bill to go into effect concurrent with the next fiscal year.

I was one of the non-legislators who participated in the 2015 meetings of a House study subcommittee that looked at abortion-statistics legislation. The committee’s work resulted in HB 629, introduced in January of this year. The chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Bill Nelson, reported to his colleagues on the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee that all stakeholders in the study agreed with the findings that led to HB 629. Representative Nelson then worked with Rep. Thomas Sherman to amend the bill to accommodate concerns of members of the full committee.  The committee passed the amended bill 12-1, and the House passed it on a voice vote. That’s about as non-controversial as a bill gets.

Here’s the House committee report by Rep. Nelson, who after studying abortion statistics laws for a year certainly understood questions about privacy and funding: “As amended, this bill provides statistical information that brings New Hampshire in line with 48 other states. The committee took care to be sure the identity of the patient is confidential and follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. All stakeholders agreed to the final version of the bill.”

This bill has been in the works for a long time. It has bipartisan sponsorship from eight state representatives and two senators. It’s the result of painstaking study by legislators, representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, an expert from the Division of Vital Records, and members of the public.

All the senators need to hear from you: YES on HB 629. Take no vote for granted.

stats history

RELATED POST on an earlier stats bill: Putting Down a Marker for Women’s Health

(Senate photo by Rep. Leon Rideout.)

 

Update: still waiting on that stats bill

Two years ago today, I took note of a remark by a New Hampshire state representative expressing optimism over the prospects for passage of a bill to require collection of abortion statistics. (See “Putting Down a Marker for Women’s Health“, 3/3/14.) How’s that going?

We’re still waiting – but a stats bill is very much alive, awaiting Senate action.

stats history

The bill that was under consideration two years ago morphed into a study committee that met during the summer and fall of 2014. The committee’s findings led to HB 629 being introduced in January 2015. After months of yet more study, the House approved HB 629 on a voice vote on January 6.

The final House committee report on HB 629 was brief:  “As amended, this bill provides statistical information that brings New Hampshire in line with 48 other states. The committee took care to be sure the identity of the patient is confidential and follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. All stakeholders agreed to the final version of the bill.”

Next stop: the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. No hearing date has been set.

Will this be the year that New Hampshire finally joins most of its sister states in tracking abortions?  Stay tuned. I hope that the next time the anniversary of the “Putting Down a Marker” post rolls around,  the only thing I’ll need to write is “done.”


 

NH committee gives thumbs-down to Born-Alive Infant Protection bill

A New Hampshire legislative committee will send a born-alive infants’ protection bill to the House floor next week with an “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) recommendation, on a 9-7 vote. In other words, a bill to ensure that care is afforded to children who survive attempted abortion got a thumbs-down.

On such a close vote, a floor fight on HB 1627 is assured when the bill reaches the House floor next week.

Reps. Takesian, Wall, and Rowe on Judiciary
Reps. Takesian, Wall, and Rowe on Judiciary

Pro…

Committee member Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) noted that there is a federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, applicable to federally-funded agencies. This kind of state-level protective legislation is not a new concept. “This only protects babies that happen to survive an abortion procedure.” He urged his colleagues to support the bill.

So did Rep. Barry Palmer (R-Nashua). He mentioned to his colleagues his experience as an EMT.  “You want to do everything you can to save a person. What is the harm in trying?” His colleague Rep. Joseph Hagan (R-Chester), a physician, commended Palmer “Having done a thousand or more resuscitations, I agree with what you say.”

…and Con

Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) had an answer for Rep. Palmer. “The harm is potential criminalization of doctors who make a decision.”

A decision. Think about that. There’s only one decision at issue in HB 1627: a decision to refuse care to a child born alive after attempted abortion.

Berch went on to say that the bill “interferes with the decision-making process at a very sensitive time.” There’s that word decision again. He mentioned problems with the bill: “vague concepts…poorly drafted…’evidence of life’ is subject to disagreement. I don’t want to use the word ‘extreme,’ but I guess I will.”

A very sensitive time. Yes, I suppose you could say it’s a sensitive matter when a child escapes an abortion attempt. For years, it’s been unclear in New Hampshire law whether a woman seeking abortion is entitled to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby. The “dead baby” caucus with its minority of votes prevailed today, because those votes were augmented by several votes from reps with pro-life voting records who had strictly technical objections to the bill.

Objections from pro-life reps…

Rep. Robert Rowe (R-Amherst), Judiciary Committee chairman, said, “I agree with the goals and philosophy of this bill, but second session [i.e. the latter half of a two-year legislative term] is not the time” to consider a bill he called “complex and flawed.” Hagan likewise supported the bill’s intent, but said it was “not ready for prime time.”

No one on the committee who had issues with the language or other technical aspects of the bill proposed any amendment today. No one proposed interim study. No one proposed anything other than the ITL motion.

…and objections from others

One legislator asked a question I found astoundingly disingenuous, and I was pleased that she was called on it almost immediately by one of her colleagues. Rep. Linda Kenison (D-Concord) said that she knew of no statistics indicating that the born-alive phenomenon was even happening. “I don’t think it is a good idea to base a law on assumptions.” Rep. Gary Hopper (R-Weare) didn’t let that pass, reminding the committee that repeated efforts to get an abortion-statistics reporting law in New Hampshire have been “thwarted.”

Rep. Kenison voted ITL anyway. No stats, no problem.

Republican Charlene Takesian of Pelham – she of pamphlet-could-be-an-act-of-violence fame – advised her fellow committee members, “We should not be legislating these medical procedures from here.”

It’s actually the failure to provide medical procedures that’s at issue, but let’s move on.

Hopper had a few words for colleagues who were fretting about telling doctors what to do. “Physicians aren’t God. They can be accountable for what they do.”

On to the House floor

The discussion ended with that 9-7 ITL vote. Majority and minority reports will be printed in an upcoming House calendar. House members will be relying on those reports as they decide how to treat the bill. Perhaps some will rely on messages from constituents as well.

Interim study, anyone?


 

The Judiciary Committee vote on HB 1627, on the motion “inexpedient to legislate”:

  • For the ITL motion, to recommend killing the Born Alive Infant Protection Act: Reps. Rowe (R-Amherst), Hagan (R-Chester), Janet Wall (D-Durham), Takesian (R-Pelham), Claire Rouillard (R-Goffstown), Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham), Berch (D-Westmoreland), David Woodbury (D-New Boston), Kenison (D-Concord).
  • Against the ITL motion and against killing the bill: Reps. Hopper (R-Weare), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), Palmer (R-Nashua), Robert Hull (R-Grafton), Mark McLean (R-Manchester), Wuelper (R-Strafford), Robert Graham (R-Milton).

 

Abortion stats bill headed to NH Senate after House passage

The New Hampshire House today passed a bill to establish a state abortion-statistics collection program. The bill will be scheduled for Senate action at a later date.

The bill, HB 629, was introduced a year ago and was studied by a House subcommittee last summer and fall. The bill was amended by the subcommittee, adopted by the full Health Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee on a 12-1 bipartisan vote, and placed on the consent calendar for today’s 2016 opening session in the House. Passage came on a voice vote.

The original bill had bipartisan support from eleven co-sponsors, led by Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester). The amendment adopted today was presented by Reps. Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield) and Thomas Sherman (D-Rye). Nelson reported on behalf of the subcommittee, “As amended, this bill provides statistical information that brings New Hampshire in line with 48 other states. The committee took care to be sure the identity of the patient is confidential and follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. All stakeholders agreed to the final version of the bill.”

Related post on an earlier stats bill, 2014: “Putting down a marker for women’s health.”