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).


House committees give thumbs down to funding, conscience bills

The New Hampshire House will vote on a pair of pro-life bills Wednesday (2/18/15) that received inexpedient-to-legislate votes in committee. One involves keeping tax dollars away from abortion providers; the other would provide legal protection to health care workers who refuse to participate in abortion or any other procedure to which they conscientiously object.

Anyone who thinks the NHGOP is a pro-life party needs to pay attention to this.

 The funding bill, HB 677,at least got a minority report. Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) of the Judiciary committee summed it up neatly: “The minority believes public funds going to these organizations indirectly supports abortions violating the conscience rights of taxpayers.” Two of his fellow committee members agreed with him; fourteen didn’t. The majority report was written by Republican Charlene Takesian of Pelham. You may recall that during the House hearing on the buffer zone bill last year, Rep. Takesian suggested that handing a leaflet to a woman could be an act of violence.

The conscience bill, HB 670, fared worse, getting a unanimous inexpedient-to-legislate vote in the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. No minority, so no minority report. Yet another Republican, John Fothergill of Colebrook, stepped up to write the committee report, quoted in full here:

The intent of the bill is to protect the right of all healthcare providers, healthcare institutions and health care payers. The committee felt the protection offered was too broad involving individuals as well as institutions. Most professional groups have a code of ethics which provide guidelines to address conscientious objection and offer a better balance between patient rights and provider rights. Finally, the committee did not feel the bill adequately protects the employer.

Without a minority report, the conscience bill goes on the consent calendar, where it will be lumped in with other unanimously-reported bills that will be voted on in one bloc. No one will point out that rejecting this bill means that coercing people to participate in abortion remains perfectly legal in New Hampshire.

“The committee did not feel the bill adequately protects the employer.” Let that one resonate for awhile. Check your consciences at the office door, folks.

Both of the committee majority votes were bipartisan. Quick – which party has the pro-life platform? No one can tell from these votes.

Surely anyone who ran on a pro-life platform should defend conscience rights. Surely anyone who claims to be pro-choice should respect the choice not to facilitate abortions. That’s not what happened in committee, though, and that doesn’t augur well for next Wednesday’s results.


NH House elects Shawn Jasper as Speaker

Reps Hall (800x600) (640x480)A parliamentary battle in Concord ended today with Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) emerging as Speaker of the New Hampshire House. It took three ballots and more than six hours for Jasper to prevail over former Speaker Bill O’Brien 195-178.

The original candidates for Speaker were Republican former Speaker Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon and Democrat Steve Shurtleff of Penacook. O’Brien fell four votes shy of a majority on the first ballot, with blank ballots and write-ins preventing either candidate from winning outright. Nominations were then re-opened and Jasper’s name was introduced. After a recess for party caucuses, Shurtleff bowed out of the race. Two ballots later, Jasper prevailed.

Jasper in 2006 on conscience rights

House Bill 1492 from the 2006 session was introduced by five pro-life legislators including current Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester). It was a bill to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists choosing not to participate in dispensing so-called “emergency contraception” or “morning-after” pills. The bill failed. (The full vote is in this House record, which unfortunately requires quite a bit of scrolling to reach HB 1492.)

Rep. Shawn Jasper voted to kill the bill. He was one of the last people to speak to the House before the vote. His remarks were nowhere preserved, as far as I know, so I can’t link to a news account. I was in the gallery that day, though, and one thing Mr. Jasper said to his colleagues has stayed with me ever since.

“If you’re opposed to this kind of thing, you know better than to go into that profession.”

Representative Jasper is now Speaker Jasper.

Jasper’s record on the life issues

Jasper has a mixed record on life-issue bills, voting pro-life more often than not.

In the past session, he supported the original language of Griffin’s Law. He opposed the buffer zone and assisted suicide. On the other side, he voted against abortion-facility licensing and death penalty repeal. He did not vote on personhood.

He has a mixed record on informed consent for abortion, opposing such a bill in 2012 but supporting a similar one in 2013. In the 2011-12 session, he voted for parental notification, and against partial-birth abortion. Oddly, he voted against a resolution commending the work of pregnancy care centers.

Yet to be seen

Bills are already in the works for the 2015 session to deal with abortion statistics, fetal homicide and repeal of the buffer zone law. A decision by Speaker Jasper to support or oppose those measures will play a role in how they’ll be dealt with in the House.

The House majority and minority leadership teams will be named shortly, and committee assignments will follow.