Giving: it’s for more than Tuesdays

I’m told that #GivingTuesday is a kickoff to the charitable season. Thanks for the clear border, guys, but where I live – amid people of modest means whose time is the greatest gift they have to offer – giving isn’t a seasonal thing. Still, this recently-minted hashtagged holiday sparks a few ideas. Some involve money, others involve time, and each has special meaning for me. While many of these suggestions are New Hampshire-based, similar opportunities exist wherever you live.

Gifts collected at the 40DFL baby shower will go to four agencies in Greater Manchester.
Gifts collected at a recent 40DFL baby shower went to four agencies in Greater Manchester.

Pregnancy care centers that provide abortion alternatives always need your help. Look for CareNet, Birthright, and Manchester’s Pennacook Pregnancy Center. Visit them and learn about the programs each one offers. Volunteer, or make a donation, or hold a drive to collect the goods they need. How about having a baby shower to benefit your local care center? Perhaps you have the business skills or fundraising savvy that make a good board member.

40 Days for Life is dedicated to peaceful and prayerful witness outside abortion facilities, in two worldwide campaigns each year, one in Lent and one in the fall. Manchester, Greenland and Concord have hosted New Hampshire 40DFL campaigns in recent years. No 40DFL donation is more critical than your time at a prayer vigil. A close second is rallying a team from your church to sign up.

The New Hampshire Food Bank does much more than supply food pantries throughout the state. While donations of food are welcomed, cash donations support the Food Bank’s extended programs. Host a food drive. Volunteer at the Manchester warehouse.

St. Charles Children’s Home in Rochester provides one-on-one behavioral treatment for students referred by local school districts. Where once it provided residential foster care, the Home now serves children in day programs. The Home is staffed by the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love, AKA the Running Nuns. The Labor Day St. Charles 5k race in Portsmouth for runners and walkers is a big fundraiser for the Home, and there’s room for you on the starting line.

The latter two projects have something in common: they’re agencies of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, which makes good use of your support for many other projects as well: health care, adoption, and refugee services, to name a few.

Give blood. I am as needle-phobic a person as you’re likely to meet, and yet I make time for this. I donated for a long time just because it seemed useful. Later, I saw loved ones benefit from medical procedures that would have been impossible without blood products. Go to redcrossblood.org to find a drive near you, or pay a visit to the Red Cross blood center on Reservoir Avenue off Mammoth Road in Manchester.

The annual NH March for Life is organized by NH Right to Life.
The annual NH March for Life is organized by NH Right to Life.

For educational and political work on the life issues in New Hampshire, consider supporting New Hampshire Right to Life and Cornerstone Policy Research. (Full disclosure: I’m a past board member of NHRTL and Cornerstone is a client of mine.)

Look in your own back yard. Local road races often benefit local charities; check them out. Is there a club or clearinghouse in your town that keeps up with community needs? For example: a few years back when we had that second “hundred-year-flood” in two years, several homes in my town needed extensive work. One of the service clubs put out a call for assistance, and we basically had a two-day town-wide rebuilding party. (I learned I can tear down soaked drywall like a pro.) If you’re a member of a church, do you have an ongoing local project? Each town has its own needs, and no one knows a town better than its own residents.

Farther afield, And Then There Were None serves abortion-industry workers who want to leave the business. To my knowledge, there is NO other ministry doing what ATTWN is accomplishing.

My thanks and respect go to everyone who keeps these agencies going, whether as a volunteer or a donor or a staff member. Every day is “giving Tuesday.” Let’s make it count.

Edited to add updated links and information.

NHRTL petitions US Supreme Court for documents re PPNNE grant

New Hampshire Right to Life today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing to order the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide documents regarding a 2011 grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. NHRTL originally filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2011 for documents about the sole-source non-competitive grant.

Attorneys for NHRTL say in today’s filing,

“The purpose of NHRTL’s requests was to expose what it considered an improper and potentially unlawful funding decision by HHS….[whose] decision to award Planned Parenthood a direct non-competitive grant was made hastily, in secret, and contrary to the usual protocols for awarding grants. Documents released by HHS showed that HHS was paying Planned Parenthood for birth control pills at nearly four times what Wal-Mart charged customers for the same pills. In addition, NHRTL suspected, as had the New Hampshire Executive Council, that Planned Parenthood was unlawfully using federal funds to subsidize abortion services, and that HHS knew that these federal funds were being used to subsidize abortions.”

The HHS grant in question was made shortly after the New Hampshire Executive Council rejected a Title X (ten) family planning contract with PPNNE in June 2011. Title X funds, while federal in origin, are administered by the states. Three months after the Executive Council vote, HHS in a surprise move made federal funds available to PPNNE, independent of any Executive Council oversight. NHRTL filed its FOIA request in October 2011 an effort to make public the process by which these funds were granted. A federal lawsuit followed after HHS did not produce documents in a timely fashion.

Some but not all of the requested documents relating to the grant have since been produced, some in redacted form. HHS has claimed the redactions and omissions are allowed under two exemptions within the FOIA law. That claim has been upheld in lower courts. NHRTL’s petition to the Supreme Court asserts in part that the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in this case creates a conflict with rulings on FOIA cases in three other Circuits.

One point of contention between the parties is the demand for public production of the PPNNE Medical Manual, outlining policies and procedures for operating a Title X federally-funded planning facility. According to today’s filing, such information is normally required by HHS as a condition for family planning grant funding. The First Circuit ruled that production of the manual and certain other documents would give an unfair advantage to a “potential future competitor” to PPNNE in future grant competitions. NHRTL notes in its petition that three other Circuits have ruled that FOIA exemptions refer to actual rather than potential competition.

NHRTL is also challenging an HHS decision to withhold some documents on the grounds that they refer to a deliberative pre-decision process, another FOIA exemption.

NHRTL is represented in New Hampshire Right to Life v. United States Department of Health and Human Services by Manchester attorney Michael Tierney and attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Leaven for the Loaf will continue to cover this case as it develops.

Related posts (2013): PPNNE to get “retroactive” $$ from state? and Retroactivity and how not to de-fund an abortion provider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field guide to the buffer zone suit that you’re paying for

Five of New Hampshire’s county attorneys have found themselves in a position they never sought: they’ve been called upon to defend New Hampshire’s buffer zone law, due to go into effect this week. Apparently, the conversations that preceded the introduction and passage of New Hampshire’s anti-speech law didn’t include the local prosecutors. Regrettable oversight, that.

Yesterday came the civil rights lawsuit that every supporter of the law should have expected, in defense of the First Amendment. Seven New Hampshire residents committed to peaceful pro-life witness are pleading for an injunction to prevent enforcement of the law.

This afternoon, according to a Twitter post by Nashua Telegraph reporter Kevin Landrigan, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said it has “no present intentions” to post the zones. Tough to tell from that one line if the lawsuit factored into that decision.

The plaintiffs, and the attorneys standing with them

The seven plaintiffs aren’t alone as they approach federal court in Reddy v. Foster. The Alliance Defending Freedom is on the job (here’s their press release about the case). Among the allied attorneys is Mark Rienzi, who was involved in the Massachusetts buffer zone case, which yielded the 9-0 Supreme Court smackdown of the Massachusetts law. Another allied attorney on the case is Manchester’s Michael Tierney, who has found his way into other posts on this blog. (He was also one of my 2013 Underrated Activists.)

The case is named for the first-listed plaintiff: Sister Mary Rose Reddy. She wouldn’t know me, but I have been a fan of hers for a long time. She and her co-workers have worked for years providing care for countless New Hampshire children from troubled families. She’s a nun with the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love, and her ministry has been at the St. Charles Home in Rochester. These “Running Nuns” started a nationally-renowned running program for the children they serve. (Anyone’s who been to a Seacoast-area race in the past decade has seen the red singlets of the St. Charles Eagles.) Her community also has a suicide-prevention ministry. She did what she could as a citizen by testifying against the buffer zone bill in Concord, to no avail. She didn’t go looking for this case, I’m sure, but she’s not ducking it. When I look at her, I see a dynamic woman, her life devoted to serving children, living a counter-cultural life that’s an example of peaceful witness.

And then there’s Jennifer Robidoux. I met her when I covered the Fall 2013 40 Days for Life campaign in Manchester. I know firsthand how committed she is to peaceful, prayerful presence at abortion facilities. When I challenged readers a few months ago to invite people to like the blog’s Facebook page, pledging an hour to 40DFL for each new follower, Jen pulled out all the stops – and now I “owe” thirteen hours to the next 40DFL campaign. She’s good-humored, hardworking, and outspoken. As with Sister Mary Rose, this is not a woman who gets up in the morning wondering whom she can sue. She has plenty to keep her busy. She cares about the women entering abortion facilities, even if they’re not coming for abortions. She believes it’s worth bearing peaceful witness to the fact that money is exchanged for dead children – excuse me, “terminations” – in those buildings. She cares enough about her country to take its founding document seriously. Litigation to vindicate her rights is her last resort.

Sue Clifton, Joan Espinola, Terry Barnum, Jackie Pelletier, and Betty Buzzell round out the list of plaintiffs. I know some of them, going back quite a way. I met Terry briefly when Concord considered its own 35-foot buffer zone. These are gutsy people. They’re not after material gain; they’ll be lucky if they’re awarded attorney’s fees. They’ll be called nasty names. They’ll be accused of waging war on women (never mind the fact that six of them ARE women). They’ll probably be used as campaign fodder by abortion advocates. And still, there they stand.

The defendants – and your tax dollars at work

Defendants are Attorney General Joe Foster; the municipalities of Manchester, Concord, Greenland, Keene, and Derry, home to abortion facilities; and the county attorneys in Hillsborough, Merrimack, Strafford, Cheshire and Rockingham counties.

Translation: town, county and state tax dollars are going to be spent to defend this offensive, insulting, totally unnecessary and apparently unconstitutional law. That’s your money and mine. Those funds could have been spent enforcing existing laws against trespass and disorderly conduct outside abortion facilities, if there had actually been such violations. There were none reported to police, so abortion defenders had to go to their friends in the legislature to invent a law that could be used to criminalize peaceful pro-life witness. A bipartisan group of friends, I hasten to add.

This waste of taxpayer funds on circumvention of the First Amendment was created by the people who sponsored, voted for, and promoted the law. It’s a pity that the sponsors and Governor Hassan can’t be held personally liable, given their unyielding support for the bill even after McCullen. I think the signing-ceremony photo op might backfire.

What’s at issue: reading the complaint

Click here for the full text of the 30-page complaint, kicking off the lawsuit.

Which court? The suit is being filed in United States District Court, alleging violation of constitutional rights pursuant to federal civil rights laws.

What are the plaintiffs asserting? They claim violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom speech and of the press, their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, and their rights to free speech and equal protection under the New Hampshire Constitution. “The state of New Hampshire has no justification for creating even one of these anti-speech zones in traditional public fora, much less creating such zones throughout the entire state. The First Amendment contemplates no possible justification for such a measure….McCullen [the Massachusetts case] directly controls this case and eliminates any plausible legal justification for the law challenged here.”

What remedy do the plaintiffs seek? They want New Hampshire’s buffer zone law declared unconstitutional. They want an immediate injunction against the law to prevent it from being enforced. “Injunctive relief will preserve the status quo of robust freedom of speech in New Hampshire, which has caused no cognizable public or personal harm and has instead yielded great public benefit.”  Plaintiffs are also asking to be awarded their legal fees.

Awarding legal fees to the plaintiffs would serve the sponsors right. Unfortunately, the sponsors wouldn’t feel the pinch. We all would. Recall that in 2009 New Hampshire paid PPNNE $300,000 to settle a claim for legal fees after PP took New Hampshire’s first parental notification law to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yes, then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte approved the settlement, because she can do arithmetic. PP can afford protracted litigation; the state cannot. I remember that Ayotte herself defended the law in Court.

This kind of case takes time. I wonder if the sponsors will still be in office when the case runs its course. One thing’s for sure: the sponsors made certain that one way or another, we’ll all be paying for the buffer zone law.

 

 

 

 

 

Pro-what? Oh, never mind

“Pro-Choice” is on the way out; “Care, No Matter What” is in. After 40-plus years of debasing the language by equating choice with abortion advocacy, Planned Parenthood has focus-grouped its way into a new message. Jill Stanek reports here about this week’s quiet announcement from PP. Not every partisan of Roe has bought into the new approach, but where PP leads, others will follow.

Maybe the label “anti-choice” can now be retired from active duty. Stay tuned for “anti-care,” although perhaps I’m being pessimistic.

The same I day I read Stanek’s report, I came across the latest issue of Alliance Defending Freedom’s magazine. The cover story is about twelve nurses in New Jersey who fought back in 2011 after they were ordered to participate in elective abortions that were falsely called “emergency” procedures. With pro bono legal help from ADF, they were able to say no and still keep their jobs. They shouldn’t have needed assistance at all, but they did, since neither their employer nor their union was any help. The brief account of the nurses’ experience, coming as it did right after I read Jill Stanek’s post, made me realize that they didn’t have any focus groups to help them figure out the best way to express their beliefs about choice and care. They did pretty well anyway.