Informed consent: thumbs down, says NH House committee

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update, 4:50 p.m.:

“This legislature has no business being involved. The messages [in HB 483] are not neutral and are not supported by medical research and understanding.”

After making that statement in executive session, chairman Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham) called for a Judiciary Committee vote on the “inexpedient to legislate” motion for HB 483. The motion passed 13-6, sending the informed consent measure to the House floor with a floor fight guaranteed.

In her comments, Rep. Smith did not address the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court – another government branch – placed the abortion liberty squarely in the political arena. None of the Judiciary members voting in the majority today suggested that the courts had no business being involved.

Rep. Smith did not mention which provisions of the bill she found “not neutral.” The text of HB 483 directs an abortion provider to provide the following information to a woman 24 hours before her abortion, which raises the question of just what “neutral” might look like:

  • Name of the abortion provider
  • “Medically-accurate” information about the proposed abortion method, risks, and alternatives
  • Probable gestational age of the fetus
  • Probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed
  • Medical risks of carrying the pregnancy to term
  • The fact that medical assistance benefits might be available, with printed material containing more detailed information
  • A list of agencies providing alternatives to abortion
  • The fact that the father of the child is liable to assist with child support; this may be omitted in cases of rape or incest
  • Notification that the woman may withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time

The bill further states that in a medical emergency (defined by a physician), the 24 hour waiting period and the informed consent prescribed by the bill may be waived.

Voting with Rep. Smith in the majority (all Democrats except for Takesian and Sylvia): Reps. Janet Wall (Madbury), Lorrie Carey (Boscawen; sitting in for the absent Paul Hackel), Rick Watrous (Concord), Peter Sullivan (Manchester), Timothy Horrigan (Durham), Paul Berch (Westmoreland), Sylvia Gale (Nashua), Frank Heffron (Exeter), Larry Phillips (Keene), David Woodbury (New Boston), Michael Sylvia (Belmont), and Charlene Takesian (Pelham).

In the minority, led by co-sponsor Lenette Peterson of Merrimack, were Republican Reps. Robert Rowe (Amherst), Joseph Hagan (Chester), Gary Hopper (Weare), Robert Luther (Laconia), and Lawrence Kappler (Raymond).

Chief sponsor Jane Cormier (R-Alton) listened quietly in the public seating area as committee members debated the bill for a half hour.  Active support of the bill was taken up by Rep. Peterson, who as a member of the committee was able to speak freely during the executive session. She faced challenges from her fellow committee members ranging from a complaint by Rep. Watrous that the fiscal note on the bill had not been completed by the office of the Legislative Budget Assistant, to a complaint by Rep. Horrigan that the bill mentions abortion alternatives but does nothing to provide them.

Rep. Berch, who missed the public hearing, said of the bill, “It’s really about women.” The two sponsors no doubt agreed with that, and so were probably dismayed as Berch went on to say, “This bill says women can’t get advice on their own.”

3:32 p.m.:

Two Republicans joined eleven Democrats as the New Hampshire’s House Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 today to recommend killing a bill to require that abortion providers inform women seeking abortion about alternatives, medically-accurate information about the proposed abortion method, and the identity of the practitioner, 24 hours before the abortion is performed.

Reps. Charlene Takesian (R-Pelham) seconded the motion by Rep. Sylvia Gale (D-Nashua) to kill the bill. Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) was the only other Republican to vote “inexpedient to legislate.”

A vote in the full House on HB 483 could come as early as February 27.

A New Voice for Informed Consent in NH

Coming in two days: a hearing on HB 483, a bill to require that women seeking abortion have the facts they need in order to give informed consent. Thursday, February 14, House Judiciary Committee, room 208 of the Legislative Office Building. This is a half-hour after the pro-Roe resolution hearing right down the hall.

Jane Cormier is a Republican freshman state representative from Alton. She resolved when she was elected that she was not going to jump on board a long list of bills as co-sponsor, but instead was going to take her time and get her bearings as an elected official. She finally selected one thing to promote: informed consent for women seeking abortion in New Hampshire. She is joined on HB 483 by Rep. Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack).

I can hear the plaintive cries already from the usual suspects: “why do we have to deal with this again?”

Because New Hampshire hasn’t “dealt with it” yet, that’s why.

Cormier and Peterson propose that a woman get some information 24 hours before she obtains an abortion. Who’s going to perform the procedure, for instance. What kind of procedure or medication will be used, and the possible complications thereof. (Have you seen any TV ads lately for prescription drugs? You know, the ones with a soothing voice reciting the possible complications? If pill vendors have to disclose that information, why shouldn’t abortion providers?) Information on the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus. The medical risk of carrying to term. Information on alternatives to abortion, on financial resources available, on the legal responsibility of fathers.

The bill provides that all of this may be suspended if the physician certifies an emergency, and documents the emergency in the woman’s medical record.

Last year, when an informed consent bill came up, opponents were scandalized that anyone would try to tell doctors how to practice medicine. Opponents also said that women already know all this information.

Look again at Planned Parenthood’s new slogans & campaigns: Care, No Matter What. We can’t guess what it’s like “in her shoes” when a woman seeks abortion.

If we can’t guess what it’s like in her shoes, how can we guess what a woman does or doesn’t know when she presents with a crisis pregnancy? How is it “care” to try to block her from having one day to consider potential complications? How is it “care” to try to block her from knowing in advance who is going to be responsible for inducing the termination of pregnancy?

Cormier and Peterson believe women are smart enough to evaluate the risks and benefits of a procedure. In contrast, opponents of the bill have a very paternalistic view of women, believing that we should count on doctors to make our decisions for us.

Reaction against the doctor-knows best attitude helped lead to the founding of freestanding women’s clinics in the 1960s and 1970s. Conventional medicine was not meeting women’s needs. Ironically, many of these clinics evolved into abortion facilities. Now, their directors and staff routinely lobby to protect their institutional interests while fighting against informed consent requirements.

The freestanding clinics have become part of the conventional-medicine model that failed women decades ago. By opposing commonsense bills like this one, conventional medicine is failing women again.

NH Pro-Roe Resolution Is Full of Contradictions

Eight New Hampshire state representatives will come before the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs committee next Thursday to make their case for HR 6, a resolution marking the 40th anniversary of Roe. v. Wade.  Are sponsors trying to commemorate the real Roe v. Wade or an imaginary one?

My advice to the courageous state representatives who will fight against this one: expose the contradictions. Your colleagues who are sponsoring this resolution have some explaining to do.

There’s what Roe says, and there’s what its partisans want it to say. Roe and the Supreme Court decisions based on it allow for informed consent laws, parental involvement for minors seeking abortion, regulation of late-term abortion, and a ban on partial-birth abortion. The sponsors of HR 6 have at one time or another come down against these measures, while claiming to support Roe.

Ironically, at nearly the same time as the hearing on HR 6, there will be a hearing down the hall on a bill for informed consent for women seeking abortion. Courts have ruled over and over again that carefully drafted informed consent statutes are constitutional. Yet the same reps who are sponsoring HR 6 will be scurrying down to the Judiciary committee a few minutes later to complain that informed consent is a thinly-veiled attempt to repeal Roe.

The resolution has three references to “safe and legal” abortion. New Hampshire requires no documentation that abortion is safe. The division of public health collects no reports of complications. I’ve heard a doctor tearfully testify in Concord to the horror of treating women years ago who were bleeding to death due to botched illegal abortions. He made no mention of botched legal ones. No one can say with certainty that those aren’t happening. As long as public health authorities decline to require meaningful data from abortion providers, lawmakers can pretend that women are safe. I don’t trust my health to that kind of wishful thinking.

Roe permits statistical collection, by the way. You won’t hear that from the sponsors of HR 6.

One of the resolution’s introductory statements is  “violence against health care providers and restrictions on access to abortion endanger the lives of women and families and have continued to erode access to abortion.” Wow. Equating violence against abortion workers with legal regulation of abortion, right in the same sentence. Will a majority of the NH House go along with that?

And then there’s this statement from the resolution: “The 2012 elections sent a powerful and unmistakable message to federal and state elected officials all around the country that women do not want politicians to interfere in their personal medical decisions.” That’s revisionist history at best. To be charitable, though, I’ll take that provision of the resolution at face value. Does this mean that the sponsors are equally indignant about a politician-imposed health care plan, the “Affordable Care Act,” that forces Americans to subsidize medications and medical procedures to which they have religious objections?

Error knows no party, and this is a bipartisan resolution. With two Republicans and at least one Catholic among the sponsors, I have no doubt that Thursday’s hearing will feature claims that HR 6 reflects mainstream “moderate” thinking. Remember that such phony moderation has kept abortion providers in New Hampshire free from public-health scrutiny.

Remember as well, even though this will hardly prove persuasive to the sponsors, that such “moderation” rests on pitting pregnant women against their children. That is no way to develop constructive public policy.

This resolution is a celebration, not mere commemoration. One last piece of advice to representatives: make sure there’s a roll call.


Sign Up: Next 40 Days for Life Campaign Begins Wednesday

40 Days logo

Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday will be the next national “40 Days for Life,”  a program of prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion. New Hampshire sites for the campaign are Planned Parenthood in Manchester and the Joan Lovering Center in Greenland. The program will run from February 13 to March 24, and organizers will welcome participation from anyone committed to peaceful and prayer pro-life witness. You can sign up for specific vigil hours so that the area team can guarantee site coverage throughout the program.

The Manchester campaign has a Facebook page where you can find information and a link to the vigil schedule. The Manchester team has planned kickoff activities for this Tuesday, February 12 (Mardi Gras, indeed!): 5:30 p.m. Mass at Ste. Marie Church on Notre Dame Avenue, then over to Planned Parenthood at 24 Penacook Street  for a 6:15 rally and prayer service followed by supper at 7:00 p.m. at the Pray for Life center across from PP.

In Greenland, the kickoff will be on Wednesday the 13th at 1:00 p.m. on the sidewalk outside the Lovering Center at 559 Portsmouth Avenue. Parking is available in the rear of the parking lot for town offices. This opening rally will be a time of prayer and information, with signs and materials available. An information page and vigil sign-up for the Greenland campaign is here. Vigil hours run 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for all forty days. Seven churches and related organizations have committed to supporting the Greenland vigil, but more volunteers are always welcome.

For the women walking into PP and Lovering, and for the women working there, please come and be a peaceful witness for life. Let your Lent be a time of hope.



March for Life 2013 Belonged to the Young

Nothing underscores the tenacity of the pro-life movement like the overwhelming number of college students from all over the country who converged on Washington, DC today for the 39th March for Life.  In the best way, I felt my age as I rejoiced in the fact that opposition to Roe is not a one-generation phenomenon. Moreover, as I listened to these young people today, it’s clear that their commitment to respect for life is not limited to the preborn. Roe v. Wade at 40 looked creaky today.

Thousands upon thousands of us, of all ages, marched together from the Mall past the Capitol to the Supreme Court. It took well over two hours. Under the watchful eyes of Capitol police, a few counter-protesters demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the Court. Perhaps the light snow kept their numbers down.

We rallied on the Mall near the Washington Monument for an hour and a quarter before the March began. The biggest cheers at the rally went to former Sen. Rick Santorum who addressed the crowd with his wife Karen and several of their children alongside. Sen. Rand Paul had a well-received turn at the mic as well.

I lost count of the college groups, identified by the banners they carried. My photos show only a few. I didn’t get pictures of the groups from Yale, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Dartmouth, Northeastern, University of Michigan … I could list about twenty more. That doesn’t count the groups without banners.

Whenever the March gets news coverage, the participation by Catholic groups is impossible to miss. Less heralded are other religious communities along with groups like students from secular colleges and health care professionals. With my photos, I’ve tried to show some of the marchers who ordinarily fly under the radar. Respect for life is more widespread than you might think. So is opposition to Roe.

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This was one of the subtler references to the President on the signs at the March.
This was one of the subtler references to the President on the signs at the March.


Florida State
Florida State

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keep calm preMFL2013

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaking at the pre-March rally
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaking at the pre-March rally
Ruben Verastegui of Students for Life got a huge ovation.
Ruben Verastegui of Students for Life got a huge ovation.