Buffer zone vote delayed

Update on HB 430: the New Hampshire House will vote on buffer zone repeal at its next session, on a date to be announced soon. HB 430 was one of 17 calendared bills left hanging when the House ran up against a hard deadline at its borrowed venue in Bedford.

There’s no word yet on when the House will once again meet in Representatives Hall at the State House. Thus far in 2020, the House has met at University of New Hampshire facilities and, most recently, at the Bedford Sportsplex, in order to observe COVID precautions including social distancing.

40 Days for Life begins today

Four New Hampshire locations are sites for 40 Days for Life campaigns beginning Ash Wednesday, February 17, lasting until Sunday, March 28. Each campaign features peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities, along with prayer, fasting, and community outreach.

For more information about each campaign and about the global 40 Days for Life project, go to these links. Note that each campaign has its own vigil calendar, where volunteers can sign up. Each campaign also has its own special events schedule.

Statement of Peace

The 40DFL Statement of Peace, signed by all participants, is an integral part of the campaign. Among the commitments: I will only pursue peaceful, law-abiding solutions to the violence of abortion when volunteering with the 40 Days for Life campaign…I understand that breaking the law or acting in a violent or harmful manner immediately and completely disassociates me from the 40 Days for Life campaign.

What 40DFL is and isn’t

40 Days for Life aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and – in its most visible work – peaceful vigil outside abortion facilities.

Civil disobedience is not part of 40 Days for Life. It’s about witness, not protest.

Also, it’s not about ignoring COVID. Volunteers are directed to observe appropriate protocols including social distancing. A volunteer who becomes ill or is exposed to COVID is expected to stay home rather than attend the vigil.

Anyone whose health concerns make participation in group events inadvisable can pray and fast from home, joining in spirit those who are keeping vigil on the sidewalks. Remote witness sounds like a contradiction in terms to anyone unfamiliar with the contemplative tradition, but that’s what some of us have done in COVID time. Has this weakened 40DFL? Hardly. This campaign is taking place in 567 locations around the world, making it the largest spring campaign since 40DFL began in 2007.

“I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down”

Adapted from a 2015 post on this blog.

Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite.

Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.

In 1963, a few months before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, he and many other civil rights activists converged on Birmingham, Alabama to challenge racial segregation. Their campaign was marked by intensive planning and discipline, because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was intent not only on its message but on delivering it the right way. Volunteers for the Birmingham campaign were screened and trained, as King recounted in Why We Can’t Wait. He noted, “Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card.”

Comprehensive commitment

To what did the Birmingham activists commit?

I hereby pledge myself – my person and body – to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.

King added, “We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating” during the campaign. That took guts. It meant putting aside the natural right of self-defense during the demonstration, even as they faced people who had no qualms about using violence, including bombs.

I want to take the Birmingham commitment to heart.

Witnessing with accountability

Anyone can sign a piece of paper (or in this age, click on “I agree”) signifying a commitment. So why bother? Because nonviolence during a public demonstration isn’t something to take for granted. Public affirmation reinforces personal commitment. Public affirmation is part of accountability to the larger community. It draws a clear line between those peaceful demonstrators and any people willing to resort to violence to impede them.

I have neighbors who take umbrage at the assertion that today’s pro-life movement is part of the civil rights movement that came to flower at that March on Washington in ’63. In reply, I can only avow that life is the fundamental civil and human right. Abortion takes lives, and there are businesses that profit from it. Let peaceful public witness to that continue.

I haven’t endured the physical abuse to which the Birmingham demonstrators were subjected. Their example is awesome even today. They faced police dogs and fire hoses, and still made a commitment to nonviolent public witness and action. The best way for me to honor their memory is to emulate them, even though I’ve faced nothing worse so far than name-calling.

The immoderate “moderates”

Recall that the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham were far from passive. There was urgency in their goal of justice and reconciliation. From a 1963 UPI report on the Birmingham demonstrations: “King reacted strongly, however, to a statement by Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggesting that the all-out integration drive here was ill-timed. ‘I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down,’ King told a reporter. ‘I begin to feel that the moderates in America are our worst enemy.’”

King used the word “moderate” ironically. He knew that civil rights, but not yet was a phony kind of moderation. In the same manner, denying the right to life is hardly a moderate position, even when cloaked in euphemisms like “reproductive justice.”

The events and words of 1963 aren’t frozen in place, devoid of application to our own times. View them not as an archaeologist views a dig, but as a traveler views a map: take this path, not that one. I could do worse than follow the people who signed those cards in Birmingham.

Whirlwind March for Life in D.C.

Unlike my trip to the March for Life last year, I had only one day off for this year’s March. I managed to get there and back in 21 hours. Don’t try that with kids, colds, or bad weather.

I’m not a fan of the formal pre-March pep rally; I’m already pepped or I wouldn’t be there. Instead, I talked with a group from Canada that comes every year to stand along the parade route to cheer. They decline invitations to walk in the March, as near as I can tell; one of them told me “we’re here to thank you.” I went to the New Wave Feminists meetup outside the shuttered Air and Space Museum (government shutdown in progress), where I heard from two amazing, courageous women whose stories were new to me. I ran into Dr. George Harne of Northeast Catholic College in Warner, N.H., who was with NCC students at the March.

It was fun to see students having a blast with Washington’s modest snow cover. I saw this snowman on the National Mall, propping up a sign from Feminists for Life.

I was determined to get a photo of the March crowd coming up Capitol Hill, which is hard to do from within the crowd – quick turn, hold up the phone, snap a photo and hope for the best – so I figured I’d get out ahead of the March and take a photo from the middle of the road. Nope, said a nice policeman. So the blurry image in this post’s gallery, taken as I teetered on the edge of a curb, was the best I could do. To see the size of the March, I recommend EWTN’s television coverage, along with this time-lapse video from Students for Life.

I ventured into the world of Facebook Live to give an assignment to viewers not at the March: call or tweet or visit or write our federal representatives, who are solidly pro-abortion – the ones from New Hampshire, at any rate. Let them know there’s a March going on; invite them to check it out; let them know that you don’t want your tax dollars being used for abortion or to subsidize abortion providers; and above all, let them know that Roe isn’t “settled.”

It’a an open-ended assignment.

“…It Takes You” to launch 40 Days for Life

Gatherings in Manchester and Greenland set the stage for New Hampshire’s 40 Days for Life campaign, set to begin September 27. Worldwide, campaigns will soon be underway in more than 300 cities.

Jen Robidoux

Jen Robidoux, vice-president of New Hampshire Right to Life and a former 40DFL campaign leader, told the Manchester crowd, “It doesn’t take a whole bunch of people to make a difference. It takes you. Be that one.” She recalled how her involvement with NHRTL and her work with 40DFL began with personal invitations. Her activism grew out of those one-on-one conversations. “[40 Days for Life] is not an in-your-face campaign. It’s a how-can-I-help-you campaign.”

Sheila DePuydt

Manchester’s new campaign director is Sheila DePuydt, a veteran of 40DFL campaigns in Ohio. She noted the difference between Ohio, where 40 Days for Life is well-known, and New Hampshire, where “that’s not the case.” She’s accustomed to hearing from people who are reluctant to pray outside abortion facilities, preferring to pray at home for all the lives in the balance. While acknowledging the value of such prayer, she pointed out “Jesus did not stay at home.”  “There’s something about physically being there,” peacefully and prayerfully, outside the places where abortion is taking place.

Greenland campaign leader Jackie McCoy reported, “It was sweltering hot yesterday at the Fall, 2017 40 Days for Life Kick off Rally, but that didn’t stop 30 plus people from attending. This will be our 17th 40 Days for Life campaign here at the Lovering Center. The first campaign was in the Fall of 2009.”

40 Days for Life in Greenland NH. Photo provided courtesy of Phyllis Woods.

Sheila provided a handout with guidelines reinforcing the Statement of Peace that every 40DFL participant must sign. One thing on the sheet stood out to me: “Keep in mind that most people are not wanting to know if the unborn is human. They’re wanting to know if you are.”

Music at the Manchester event was provided by students from Northeast Catholic College under the direction of Debbie Harne.

Click here for links to information about local 40DFL campaigns