Prime swag from the exhibit hall at the Conservative Political Action Conference (@CPAC2019) outside Washington, D.C.: “Defending Life 2019.” This annual report from Americans United for Life gives a state-by-state analysis of life-issue laws. It includes calls to action for each state, listing the kinds of laws that would strengthen public policy relative to the right to life.
If you’re at CPAC, grab it. Its availability here is good news. This is a “conservative” conference rather than a “pro-life” conference, and the two are not synonymous even if there’s overlap. At the conference, it’ll get into the hands of people who might not have given much thought before to life-issue laws – at least not until the recent Born-Alive bill news from Washington. This is a teachable moment.
If you’re not at CPAC, look for “Defending Life” at aul.org.
One erratum, which I have brought to the attention of AUL: New Hampshire’s governor, happily, did not veto fetal homicide legislation. Quite the contrary, in fact. I was there to cheer when he signed it.
I just sent an email to my Member of Congress, asking him to support a piece of legislation that will probably come up in Washington late this afternoon: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s as flawed a life-issue bill as I’ll see this year in either Washington or Concord. Still, I hope it passes. And I definitely want to see who-votes-how. [Update, 5:45 p.m.: the measure passed, 242-184.]
In the absence of a clean up-or-down vote on late-term abortion, this bill is the next best thing. Don’t go looking in this bill for an affirmation of a right to life from conception to natural death; it ain’t there. This bill proposes restrictions on mid- and late-term abortions, not a ban. It doesn’t confer “personhood” and it doesn’t even apply to preborn children in the first half of pregnancy. It may or may not be good news to you that the bill poses no threat to Roe v. Wade. And still, I asked my congressman to vote Yea.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, speaking as a no-holds-barred supporter of the legislation:
“Limiting abortion at 5 months of pregnancy, as an unborn child becomes able to live outside the womb and as the abortion procedure becomes even more dangerous for women, is a commonsense law long overdue….[I]t deals directly with the ugly reality of abortion, which hurts both mother and child who are exposed to an industry willing to harm people for profit.”
Not so coincidentally, today is the second anniversary of the conviction of noted Philadelphia butcher Kermit Gosnell. Supporters of Pain-Capable see passage as a fitting way to mark the date. Earlier this year, the bill was scheduled for a vote on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, before it was sidetracked. (Nurse Jill Stanek has done all she can to make House Speaker John Boehner bring back the bill. Bound4Life has an interesting interview with her on the subject.)
A good – nay, great – provision in the bill: it calls on anyone terminating a post-20-week pregnancy to do so in a manner which “in reasonable medical judgment provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive,” consistent with the safety of the mother. No snipping, doctors.
And then there are a couple of sticky points that won’t go away.
Finer minds than mine came up with the title, which acknowledges how squeamish many people are about “terminating” a post-20-week preborn child who “reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human.” That’s from the text of the bill, in the Findings section. Great. Imposing pain except for therapeutic purposes (can I pop that dislocated shoulder back into place for you?) is to be avoided. The danger comes when that leads to the conclusion that anesthetizing the intended victim would be some kind of solution. Would that make abortion more palatable? How about anesthetizing people being subjected to forced sterilization or euthanasia? Would that make the procedures somehow all right, as long as no one feels pain? No. I recognize of course that the bill’s sponsors have no intention of going down that road.
There is also … wait for it … a rape-and-incest exception. The hashtag for the Twitterfest on this bill is #theyfeelpain. I almost want to counter with #theyfeelpaintoobutnevermind. The redoubtable Abby Johnson is simply using #NoExceptions.
Still, I’ve supported policies with such exceptions before, notably the Hyde Amendment. Did you realize that Hyde only restricts the use of federal Health and Human Services funds for abortion in certain government programs? Other federal funds are unaffected. Did you know that it’s not automatic, but has to be renewed each budget cycle? That it has those exceptions I mentioned? And still, I support it and I even want to see it expanded to cover more federal departments.
I’ve asked Congressman Guinta to support H.R. 36. He knows I’m watching. How about you?
In spite of practical considerations, I’m fond of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an expensive indulgence, but I managed a one-day trip this year. Even by my First-in-the-Nation standards, it’s an impressive gathering.
Never mind the headliners. The best of the presentations are usually to be found in the breakout sessions, and this year was no exception. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List joined Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life and Darla St. Martin of National Right to Life spoke to a packed room about pro-life victories throughout the country in 2014. As New Hampshire turns ever bluer on the political map (I’m not giving away any secrets here), it’s easy to lose sight of the pro-life political gains elsewhere in other states. Ask Iowa’s Joni Ernst about that.
A lower-profile presentation by Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee of Women Speak Out, an SBA List PAC, was a nuts-and-bolts description of the field effort that went into the winning campaigns last year. They called their session “The Margin of Victory.” No theoretical stuff here. How many canvassers, how many live phone calls, how many face-to-face interactions with pro-life voters did it take to yield victories for pro-life candidates? This was independent PAC with an astonishing ground game, independent of any party. They got results with good hard field work: one-on-one contact with voters.
One thing was clear after hearing from candidates and pro-life activists all day: don’t expect the presidential candidates to lead on the life issues. That’s going to be the voters’ job. Most pro-life or fence-sitter candidates will bring up the life issues only if asked – so be prepared to ask. (Pro-abortion candidates seem to have no trouble being upfront about their beliefs, if you can call it “upfront” when they use euphemisms like “pro-choice.”)
Carly Fiorina was at ease amid the crowd.
Sen. Marco Rubio on the CPAC main stage
Sen. Rand Paul, CPAC straw poll winner
Gov. Scott Walker was a huge draw at CPAC, and his volunteers seemed to be everywhere.
Ovide Lamontagne is general counsel of Americans United for Life – except when he’s back home in Manchester, New Hampshire. There, he’s simply Ovide, having made his mark through the years as attorney, candidate, chairman of the state Board of Education, and supporter of numerous nonprofit organizations in the area. He was in town Saturday to address the closing gathering of the season’s 40 Days for Life campaign in Manchester.
“Be people of hope”
“40 Days for Life is founded on hope. Be people of hope,” he began. He recalled the 2012 election, in which he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire. “People have come up to me over the past two years to say how frustrated they were over what happened in 2012 in that election. How angry and disenfranchised they felt. And I say to them that’s OK. That’s human. I felt frustrated about the way things worked out. But I submit to you we cannot lose hope. We are called to be people of hope and faith and love. Working with 40 Days for Life, we are becoming that.”
He began working for AUL, “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team,” in 2013. “Thank God for 40 Days for Life. We filed an amicus brief for 40 Days for Life in a case called McCullen v. Coakley” – the Massachusetts buffer zone case, well-known to his listeners, who applauded his reference to the case. “Thank God the Supreme Court made the right decision. We were able to write in our brief what 40 Days for Life does – affirm women and men. Young people are reaching out to women who think they don’t have a choice.”
“It starts in the states”
Ovide outlined the background of AUL’s work and legal strategy. “The U.S.A is one of four countries that allows abortions through nine months of pregnancy.” He knows that U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is trying to win re-election by casting herself as more “pro-choice” than her opponent, Scott Brown. Ovide said, “That means [abortion] through all nine months of pregnancy.” The good news: “62% of Americans polled said there should be more restrictions on abortion, and 64% said they support a late-term abortion ban.”
That’s where AUL’s current strategy kicks in. “[A late-term ban] is what we’re trying to encourage Congress to pass, so we can bring some sanity to what is an extreme position in America and in New Hampshire.”
Americans United for Life has made a priority of developing suggested state-level state legislation, known collectively as the Women’s Protection Project. “The pro-life movement needs a mother-child strategy, and that’s what we do at AUL. The reality is there are two victims of abortion, every time: unborn children and women. Abortion harms women. We are better than that.” Abortion-facility regulation, while not yet in place in New Hampshire, has been adopted in some other states, notably Texas. “Pro-abortion forces say aw, come on, [things like] hallway widths are relevant to getting an abortion? Ask the family of Karnamaya Mongar.” Mongar was one of Kermit Gosnell’s victims, who died following a late-term abortion. The Gosnell grand jury report cited narrow hallways in Gosnell’s facility as one factor that delayed emergency responders from being able to evacuate Mrs. Mongar from the building.
“The state has the right to regulate abortion to make it safe for women. You can’t pass a law for the purpose of closing clinics, but know this: this industry is about making money, and they’re not going to raise standards. They’re going to say we have to close our clinics instead. And that’s OK. We can’t do this without you. It starts in the states.”
“The civil rights movement of this generation”
It’s not lost on Ovide that a hallmark of the contemporary pro-life movement is the involvement of youth, whether it be at the national March for Life or the local 40DFL campaign. “Things are happening in the pro-life movement that are very encouraging. People are waking up to what is going on. And it’s the young people who are going to save our country.
“We can’t give up, and have to move when, where and how we can to advance the culture of life in America. We are the civil rights movement of this generation.”
One more day
Jennifer Robidoux, coordinator for this 40 Days for Life campaign, reminded everyone that the campaign’s formal conclusion is Sunday evening. “There’s still a day and a half. Wouldn’t it be great to end this campaign with every hour covered?” She announced that she’s stepping down as coordinator, leaving plenty of time for another volunteer to step forward. “The spring campaign is just around the corner. The rest of the leadership team is ready to get started.”
Coming next week: introducing the Leaven newsletter
Pick of the Web is moving from the blog to the new Leaven for the Loaf newsletter, premiering next Friday. All new blog subscribers will receive it automatically. You can also subscribe to the newsletter via this link. No time to read daily posts? The newsletter will put links to all the week’s posts together for you in one email, along with Pick of the Web and photos from events of pro-life interest – with a strong New Hampshire flavor, as always.
Lots to share this week:
Your absolutely positively last reminder of NH’s march for life
Saturday, January 18 (mere hours away as I write this), the State House in Concord is the place to be at 11:45 as all people of good will are invited to New Hampshire’s march for life. The march goes from the State House south on Main Street, passing near the Feminist Health Center, ending at St. John the Evangelist Church’s parish hall. A program begins at 1 p.m. at the hall, featuring Jeanneane Maxon of Americans United for Life. More info at www.nhrtl.org.
If you come to the march, I hope I’ll meet you. I’ll be at the Cornerstone table at the program after the march. (My work on this blog is a separate effort from my work for Cornerstone, and that organization is in no way responsible for anything I write or cite on Leaven.)
D.C. Marchers, please share your photos
I’ll miss the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday. I’ll be happy to post photos from New Hampshire folks who attend. If you want your work featured in a Leaven post, email me your best photos or a link to them: email@example.com.
Memo from Rolling Stone: Look out, world, here come the pro-lifers
In “The Stealth War On Abortion” [link broken as of June 2016], Rolling Stone magazine gives a backhanded compliment to Americans United for Life as one of the groups “eviscerating abortion rights” nationwide. Well, sure, if you consider informed consent to be an evisceration, and if you forget that laws are passed by legislatures. AUL’s work is invaluable in terms of constitutionally-sound language for pro-life measures.
Speaking of AUL …
Americans United for Life has issued its 2014 “Life List,” ranking the states in terms of how well women and children are protected from the abortion industry. Check the link here.
From the Can’t Make This Up Dept.: The Art of Suing To Silence
h/t SBA List: In the New York Post, William McGurk’s “Who Decides if a Political Ad is a Lie?” reports that the Supreme Court has just accepted a case involving an ex-Congressman and a pro-life PAC. In 2010, the Susan B. Anthony List argued that a vote for Obamacare was a vote for abortion. They ran ads against one Steve Driehaus for supporting the president’s health care law, saying that Driehaus “voted for taxpayer funded abortion.” Driehaus, an incumbent Congressman, lost the election. He then sued SBA List for “depriving him of his livelihood.”
Farewell to a pro-life leader
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is retiring from the Senate at the end of this year, two years before the end of his term. Best known as a government-waste watchdog, he is also a physician who has spoken up countless times on the Senate floor in defense of the right to life. Count him as one of the good guys. Fox News reports on his retirement.
New Hampshire statistics bill gets a hearing
I’ll have a post dedicated to this up on the blog this weekend, but the short story is that HB 1502 had its first hearing before the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee yesterday. Questions for the sponsor from committee members quickly revealed that the prospect of gathering objective data scares the living daylights out of some people. I was there for the festivities and will let you know what I heard. For a preview, check this Facebook post I made yesterday.
NH Death Penalty repeal gets a hearing
Also yesterday came the initial hearing on HB 1170, a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty. I know this is a painful matter that divides many people of good will. The most compelling story I have ever read about a New Hampshire resident who changed his mind about the death penalty comes from John Breckinridge, former police partner of murdered Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.
I note that Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) testified yesterday in favor of repeal. Her pro-life credentials are impeccable. We’ve labored in the same vineyard for years. Even after earning the confidence of ward 4 voters for several elections now, she is always ill-at-ease when she testifies. She spoke up yesterday, though, and I give her enormous credit for that. She had to stand up in opposition to some people who are her allies in other battles.
40 Days for Life is back; Greenland NH coordinator needed. Apply by 1/29.
I got an email this week from Jackie McCoy, who has done wonderful work leading the 40 Days for Life campaigns outside the Feminist Health Center in Greenland. She’s stepping down. Might this be a job for you? Read what she says, and email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to help. I’ll put you in touch with Jackie. Here’s her message.
“Happy New Year pro life friends!
Applications to lead a Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign are now open. However this year, after some discernment, I have decided to step down from my role as coordinator/campaign director. This means I will not be sending in the application to hold a Greenland campaign.
If any of you, or someone you know, is interested in taking on the role of campaign director, I am very willing to explain what is involved and to discuss what resources we have available to pay the $197 application fee and other costs associated with running a campaign. The application period is open until midnight, January 29. The actual campaign runs from March 5 – April 13.
Given the latest NH senate bill (bill 319-FN) that is trying to establish a statewide 25 foot buffer zone outside all NH reproductive health care facilities, we may soon lose the right to pray on the sidewalk outside the Greenland abortion facility. Lets pray that doesn’t happen and contact our local representatives to express how we feel about that!
In the meantime, if there is no official Greenland, Spring 40 Days for Life campaign, I would hope that you will still take an hour a week to pray outside the abortion center during the 40 days. I have signs that you can borrow (abortion hurts women/men, etc).”