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.