Weekend reading, only slightly political

If you’ve missed these best-of-the-rest posts this week, enjoy them this weekend!

Christina Chase: A Personal Plea Against Assisted Suicide (catholicsuncook.org)

This is on the web site for St. John the Baptist parish in Suncook, New Hampshire, written by a woman with chronic illness who understands the threat assisted suicide legislation poses to people with disabilities. “When voters, legislators, or judges make assisted suicide the law, it becomes an option for all terminally ill people in the state who are told that they have less than six months to live. And this option will be offered. Make no mistake about it. Those who push for this kind of legislation, and healthcare workers who support it, believe that they are being compassionate toward those who are suffering….But, there will be terminally ill people who will not want to speed up the dying process, people who will want to simply live until the natural end of their lives.  These people will be offered the ‘dignified’ way out – and they will need to say No.” Read the rest of the post. 

Jewels Green: Grandmother,  interrupted (lifesitenews.com)

“I’ve heard innumerable women share their stories of regret and conversion after their abortions. Many friends have talked about what they imagine their children might have been like had they been born and not aborted….I guess I never followed that train of thought to its logical conclusion. My missing baby is now a missing adult, and I find myself gripped by thoughts of missing grandchildren.” Read the rest of the post. 

Joan Frawley Desmond: Justice Clarence Thomas Marks a Quarter Century on the Supreme Court (ncregister.com) 

“‘He is a living testament to the principle that every man and woman has the right to think for themselves. regardless of their gender, race, religion or other personal characteristics.'” Read the rest of the post. 

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers: Chinese Family Hides to Escape Forced Abortion of Third Child

“In a triumph of investigative journalism, the BBC has released a Report, ‘China’s forbidden babies still an issue,’ confirming that under the Two-Child Policy, forced abortion remains a threat for women pregnant with a third child.  In this Report, John Sudworth, the BBC’s Beijing Correspondent, interviews the father of a family in hiding because his wife has just given birth to their third child.  The Report describes the man as ‘anxious and on edge, but still determined to tell his story.'” Read the rest of the post.  


 

Freedom of (some) information: SCOTUS rejects hearing on NHRTL case

DSCF9895The Supreme Court of the United States giveth, and the Supreme Court taketh away, and sometimes the Supreme Court says “go away.” An important New Hampshire case got the go-away treatment on November 16, as the Court declined to hear New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services. 

As my constitutional law professor stressed to me years ago, “A decision not to make a decision is still a decision.” This one went the wrong way.

NHRTL president Jane Cormier said, ““We would have been thrilled if the U.S. Supreme Court had taken on our case. NHRTL has been very concerned with the lack of transparency within the Obama administration. Despite the fact the NH Executive Council voted down the funding of PPPNE in 2011, US Health and Human Services chose to fund Planned Parenthood without going through proper state approval or even follow federal regulations requiring competitive bidding.”

Jane Cormier, NHRTL President (E. Kolb photo)
Jane Cormier, NHRTL President (E. Kolb photo)

This was effectively a victory for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which since 2011 has fought efforts by New Hampshire residents to find out how a federal grant to PPNNE seemed to appear out of nowhere after the New Hampshire Executive Council in June 2011 denied a PP contract proposal. NHRTL sought documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to find out how the federal grant was made. PP produced some of the requested documents, with parts redacted. It refused to produce others – in particular, its Manual of Medical Standards and Guidelines. FOIA grants exemptions for “trade secrets” and material that could harm a party in a future competitive bidding process, and PP successfully claimed that the Manual falls under that exemption.


By the way, NHRTL’s FOIA request for the Manual was not out of line. PP had to produce its Manual to the government in order to get the federal grant – a point made by two Justices who dissented from yesterday’s announcement.

It would have taken four out the nine Supreme Court justices to accept the case. Normally, denials are made without comment. In this case, though, Justice Clarence Thomas took the trouble to publish his reasons for wanting to grant a hearing, and he was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia. They are troubled by conflicting lower-court rulings in FOIA cases about documents that are exempt from release. “The First Circuit’s decision warrants review. It perpetuates an unsupported interpretation of an important federal statute and further muddies an already amorphous test. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.” (See the PDF of Justice Thomas’s remarks at page ten of this link at supremecourt.gov.)

Neither Thomas nor Scalia took the side of one party over the other. They simply pointed out that lower courts in FOIA cases around the country have made conflicting rulings about what can be exempted from FOIA requests. That’s the sort of situation that normally makes a case ripe for Supreme Court review. I wonder if the Court would have taken the NHRTL case if the names of the parties had been different.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which with local attorney Michael Tierney represented NHRTL in court, released a statement after this week’s Court action. “HHS says it can’t release the documents because doing so might affect Planned Parenthood’s ‘competitive position’ if it faces a commercial grant competitor in the future. HHS also refused to produce information about its own debates over how to sell the controversial decision to the public.”

A related but separate petition arising from the 2011 Executive Council decision is pending before the New Hampshire Supreme Court, New Hampshire Right to Life and Jackie Pelletier v. New Hampshire Director of Charitable Trusts Office (docket #2015-0366).

“New Hampshire’s Executive Council recently voted to again eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood,” noted Cormier. “We will need to be vigilant to ensure this type of back-door unaccountable funding does not occur again.”

Meanwhile, as it did in 2011, PP blames the Executive Council for attacking women’s health care by denying PP a contract a few months ago. It’ll be interesting to see PP’s 2015 financial statements, which should reveal how much or how little PP is shifting its priorities away from public policy ($1.5 million in 2014, plus a lobbyist’s salary) and towards clinical care.