Health care conscience rights: as Sweden goes…?

In November 2015, I posted the words of Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife under fire for declining to participate in abortions.

”As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost. Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life. A midwife described to me how she had held an aborted baby in her arms, still alive, and cried desperately for an hour while the baby struggled to breathe. These children do not even have a right to pain relief. I cannot take part in this.”

Ms. Grimmark went to court to get her job back. Now, a year and a half later, a Swedish court has determined that Ms. Grimmark did not suffer discrimination, nor had authorities violated her freedom of expression (BBC report here). It’s OK in Sweden to require health care professionals to participate in abortions as a condition of employment.

And that works, as far as a spokeswoman for “Sweden’s Health Professionals” is concerned: “[P]eople seeking care should not have to think about your own opinions”.

Think it couldn’t happen here? Think again. New Hampshire has no law protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals. Bills to change that have elicited testimony from abortion supporters that sounds a lot like the statement from the Swedish Health Professionals.

Watch Sweden, and take note.


 

N.H. journalism starts 2017 on the wrong foot

You’d think I could get through my first hot chocolate of 2017 without being moved to post here. Nope, thanks to the New Hampshire Sunday News, a Union Leader publication.

I’ve been a subscriber for decades and will remain one. The editorial page has retained a pro-life tone through changes in staff. Someone on the news side was a bit self-indulgent today, though, employing this subhead in an article by Kevin Landrigan and Dave Solomon on the upcoming legislative session.

“New efforts to restrict abortion services.”

OK, you have my attention, I thought as I sipped and savored my New Year’s mug of chocolate. I read on, curious about the use of the plural “efforts” when I’m aware of only one bill to limit post-viability abortions.

I shoulda known. The buffer zone and fetal homicide are grossly miscast as “efforts to restrict abortion services.” Here is the relevant portion of the article, page A8, carried over from the front page’s “State House to take on drugs, guns, money.” I’ll hold my remarks until after the excerpt, much as the content begs for in-line comments.

The new Republican governor is already well-known for his on-again, off-again, on-again relationship with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Sununu calls himself “pro-choice,” which was why his deciding vote to block state grants to Planned Parenthood in 2015 became such a flash point in the campaign.

Less than a year later, Sununu got the chance for a makeup call on the matter and reversed field, endorsing grants for Planned Parenthood.

Sununu had opposed them last year due to the allegations that other locals of Planned Parenthood had paid for fetal body parts, allegations that were never taken to court to be proved.

What is less recognized but worth watching next year is whether Sununu gives any political support to restrictions on abortion laws that he did endorse in 2016.

For example, Sununu said he would sign into law the repeal of the still-unenforced law that requires there be a buffer zone around abortion clinics so that their patrons aren’t harassed by pro-life protesters.

Further in a mailing to pro-life voters, Sununu said he favors the so-called Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act that permits all employees of health care providers to refuse to work or counsel anyone regarding services that they morally oppose. 

Those services include abortion, birth control, stem-cell research and euthanasia.

Finally, Sununu said that unlike the last two governors who vetoed such measures, he would embrace legislation that treats an unborn fetus as a person when it comes to the state’s homicide laws. 

“I need your help to restore strong, value-based governance to our state,” Sununu wrote to pro-life voters days before his Nov. 8 victory.

Pro-choice advocates remain hopeful they can convince the legislature not to pass these measures.

The subhead is astounding, more so when you realize that the post-viability bill did not rate a mention.

One more time, folks: the buffer zone law does not protect abortion access, and repealing it would not restrict abortion access. “Harassment” can be addressed under disorderly conduct laws, which have not been used against New Hampshire pro-life witnesses in recent years. The failure to use such laws before infringing on the First Amendment is what doomed the Massachusetts law struck down by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Further, the unenforced law would not “require… there be a buffer zone around abortion clinics.” The law as written gives abortion facility management sole discretion on whether, when, and where a zone may be posted.

The experience in other states with buffer zone laws in effect indicates that abortions go on regardless of the presence or absence of a buffer. The presence or absence of such a law has no effect on any right to abort.

Also under the subhead mentioning “restrict” is a brief mention of conscience legislation, as though respect for conscience rights means a restriction on abortion and is therefore a bad thing.

Finally, fetal homicide legislation finds itself under a subheading about “restrict[ing]” abortion services. The writers decline to use the words fetal homicide legislation, preferring treats an unborn fetus as a person when it comes to the state’s homicide laws.

Fetal homicide laws are on the books in more than three dozen states. Abortion is legal in all those states. No fetal homicide law, including the versions introduced in New Hampshire over the past quarter-century, would affect ANY decision made with the consent of the pregnant woman – including abortion.

That bears repeating. Fetal homicide laws are NOT applicable in any case where the death of the fetus occurs with the mother’s consent. Fetal homicide laws have nothing to do with abortion. 

Fetal homicide legislation gives prosecutors the right to seek a homicide charge against people like drunk drivers and abusive partners whose actions cause the death of a fetus, against the will of the mother.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2009 – that’s going on eight years ago – had to overturn the conviction of a man whose drunk driving resulted in the death of Dominick Emmons. The unanimous Court concluded at that time,  “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

A minor point, by comparison: the writers of the article mention two vetoes of fetal homicide legislation. There has been only one, by Governor John Lynch in 2012.

I doubt today’s news coverage would seem half so egregious had it not been under the words “new efforts to restrict abortion services.” Buffer zone repeal, fetal homicide laws, and respect for conscience rights don’t amount to restrictions.

Should you be moved to comment on the Sunday News coverage, you can leave a comment online under the article, reply to the paper’s Twitter or Facebook links to the piece, or email a letter to the editor via letters@unionleader.com.

 


Weekend reading (and viewing) on life & conscience

A new report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute is just the thing for your weekend reading. “Unconscionable:  Threats to Religious
Freedom and Rights of  Conscience in the Abortion
Debate” is a new report by the Institute’s Timothy Bradley.   “While society continues to debate whether and when abortion should be permitted, a second question concerns whether to force pro-life individuals and institutions to participate in or facilitate abortions.” Indeed.

Bradley describes cases where the conscience rights of pro-life Americans are being challenged, and he includes recommendations for strengthening and enforcing those rights.

And now for something completely different…

Enjoy this video, just because it’s lovely: a two-minute drone’s- eye view of a beautiful church’s interior. h/t Aleteia via Granite Grok.

 

November’s Executive Council races

Two of New Hampshire’s five Executive Councilors are now running for Governor, while the other three will be defending their Council seats in November. I’ll be posting more information about these candidates in the coming weeks.

Note that all of the Democratic candidates for Council have been endorsed by Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund PAC, reflecting their commitment to keeping taxpayers involved in the abortion industry.

The Executive Council’s responsibilities include voting on state contracts and deciding whether to confirm the Governor’s nominees to various posts. Read more about the Council at nh.gov.

Executive Council district 2, outlined in red
Executive Council disticts
District One: North Country

Incumbent Councilor Joe Kenney (R-Wakefield) is being challenged for the third time by Democrat Michael Cryans. The two went head-to-head in the 2014 special election that followed the death of longtime Councilor Ray Burton, and Kenney prevailed narrowly on that occasion as well as in the regular election a few months later.

Kenney was part of the Council majority that denied a contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in 2015. The contract was brought up again in June 2016 and was approved thanks to the flip-flop of Councilor Chris Sununu. During that June meeting, just before the contract vote was taken, Kenney explained his reasons for voting No.

“I’ll be voting against the contract, mostly because of the prioritization….[F]amily planning services is not the crisis of the day…. The number one issue in the state of New Hampshire is the opioid crisis. Number one.

“…We’re basically re-addressing something that was taken up last year, and this Council spoke very articulately and very forcefully  that they were not going to support the contract….We should put that money into the drug opioid crisis.

District Two: Concord, Keene, Durham, etc.

The Executive Council district map that illustrates this post features district 2 outlined in red. This, folks, is what a gerrymander looks like.  Outgoing Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord will be succeeded by either Democrat Andru Volinsky of Concord or Republican Sam Cataldo of Farmington.

With his Council bid, Cataldo is giving up his district 6 Senate seat. He has a pro-life voting record, including support for a death penalty repeal bill which failed on a tie Senate vote in 2014.

Volinsky, an attorney from Concord, scored a decisive win in a three-way Democratic primary.

District Three: Seacoast & Southern Rockingham County

Democrat Beth Roth and Republican Russell Prescott are running for the Council seat being vacated by Chris Sununu.

In a Union Leader column last May, Roth wrote that the Council’s 2015 denial of the PP contract “mortgaged the health of women and families to satisfy a national partisan agenda….I’m running for Executive Council in District 3 because I believe we must fully restore funding for Planned Parenthood…”

Prescott (R-Kingston) has served several terms as state senator for district 23. He has supported many life-issue bills but opposed death penalty repeal in 2014.

District Four: Manchester + areas north and east of the city

Incumbent Councilor Chris Pappas, a Manchester Democrat, is being challenged by Manchester’s Joseph Kelly Levasseur.

In August 2015, Pappas said it would be “inhumane” to deny PP a contract with the state of New Hampshire.

Levasseur has served the city of Manchester as alderman and planning board member.  I don’t know anything about his views on the life issues – yet. [Update 10/3/16: Levasseur was a speaker at the October 2 40 Days for Life rally in Manchester. ]

District Five: Nashua + points west and northwest

As Councilor, and before that as state senator and state representative, incumbent David Wheeler (R-Milford) has been an outspoken advocate for the right to life. He has opposed the use of public money for any abortion provider, not just PP.  I’ve been proud to have Dave as my district’s Councilor.  Note that he has not had occasion in recent years to vote on the death penalty, and I won’t guess where he stands on that.

Dan Weeks (D-Nashua), holding a Planned Parenthood endorsement, does not mention it on his web site. The site does mention “critical investments in women’s health.” I don’t suppose that includes investing in statistical collection of abortion data, but I could be wrong.

Keep an eye on these five races, which will determine how readily abortion providers can get at your money. Recall that the state commissioner of health and human services Jeffrey Meyers said that state contracts with abortion providers for non-abortion services pay for “infrastructure”: “My understanding from speaking with both of the vendors after the contract was brought forth for the agenda is that that money will continue to support their infrastructure, some specific needs, that will allow them to continue access.”  There’s no way to divide “infrastructure” under one roof to keep abortion financially separate from non-abortion work.

 

Looking back: selected NH House votes, 2015

State House, Concord NH
State House, Concord NH

Personhood, buffer zone repeal, fetal homicide, conscience protection for health care providers, public funding of abortion providers, abortion statistics, restriction on post-21-week abortion: the New Hampshire House considered all those issues this year, with mixed results. Bills on personhood, conscience protection, and limiting public funding of abortion providers were killed outright. The post-21-week bill was tabled without a roll call vote. A fetal homicide bill and an abortion statistics bill (the latter without a roll call) are still under consideration for 2016. Buffer zone repeal passed the House but was tabled in the Senate.

As always, the New Hampshire General Court home page is your portal to vote results, the text of bills, and identifying your representatives.  You can find every legislator’s action on every roll call vote. Take careful note of what motion is at issue in a vote;  “yes” might mean “yes” to killing the bill.

56 legislators to thank


Five votes represents a very small piece of House business and a small segment of the right-to-life spectrum. Granting that, though, these five 2015 votes are worth noting together:  HB 194 (personhood), HB 403 (buffer zone repeal), HB 560 (fetal homicide/Griffin’s Law from Rep. Rideout), HB 670 (conscience rights for medical professionals), and HB 677 (limiting public funding to abortion providers).

Fifty-six legislators showed up for all five of those votes, favored buffer zone repeal and fetal homicide legislation, and opposed killing the bills on personhood, conscience rights, and public funding of abortion providers. They’re listed here alphabetically by county, with district number in parentheses.

By their votes, these reps defended the right to life and the right to peaceful free expression. By their votes, they agreed that people who don’t want to cooperate in abortion should not be coerced into doing so. They know that New Hampshire law needs to recognize (as do more than three dozen other states) that anyone like an impaired driver or abusive partner who injures a pregnant woman and thereby causes the termination of her pregnancy against her will has committed homicide.

Next time you see these representatives, say thanks.  I will.

Belknap County

Raymond Howard Jr. (8), Robert Luther (3), Franklin Tilton (3).

Carroll County

Ed Comeau (5), Glenn Cordelli (4), Frank McCarthy (2), Bill Nelson (5).

Cheshire County: none.
Coos County

Leon Rideout (7).

Grafton County

Duane Brown (16), Paul Ingbretson (15), Eric Johnson (7).

Hillsborough County

Ralph Boehm (20), John Burt (39), Larry Gagne (13), Linda Gould (7), William Goulette (23), Edith Hogan (34), Joseph Lachance (8), Dick Marston (19), Mark McLean (15), Josh Moore (21), David Murotake (32), Keith Murphy (7), Jeanine Notter (21), Bill Ohm (36), Carl Seidel (28), Kathleen Souza (43), Victoria Sullivan (16)

Merrimack County

Michael Brewster (21), Harold French (2), Carol McGuire (29), Dan McGuire (21), Brian Seaworth (20)

Rockingham County

Max Abramson (20), Al Baldasaro (5), David Bates (7), Allen Cook (11), Joe Duarte (2), J. Tracy Emerick (21), William Gannon (4), Richard Gordon (35), Jeffrey Harris (9), Bruce Hodgdon (1), Robert Introne (5), Daniel Itse (10), Lawrence “Mike” Kappler (3), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (6), Frederick Rice (21), James Spillane (2), Chris True (4).

Strafford County

Warren Groen (10), Thomas Kaczynski Jr. (22), Robert Knowles (12), Don Leeman (23), Leonard Turcotte (4).

Sullivan County

Thomas Laware (8).