On Pain, Viability, and Votes

On the agenda this week: two bills addressing mid- and late-term abortions. One bill is federal, and it fell short on a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate. The other bill is getting its hearing this week (January 31, 10:00 a.m.) before a New Hampshire House committee, a year after a similar bill was tabled in the House.

The opposition by abortion advocates is predictable, as is the split among pro-lifers.

Federal: the “Pain-Capable” Bill

The U.S. Senate failed this week to advance a so-called “Pain-Capable” bill, which would have limited abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, the point at which preborn children can feel pain. As if the very title of the bill weren’t enough to calm fears that it might actually confer personhood on anyone (it was written to be merely a limitation on abortion), the bill contained exceptions for children conceived through rape and incest.

The point of those exceptions is anyone’s guess. They provided no tactical advantage of which I’m aware, and they infuriated rape survivors and their children.

We were treated to the disedifying spectacle of the Democratic Senate leader high-fiving a colleague after the vote. They weren’t celebrating the defeat of an exceptions bill. Way to go, guys. Team Gosnell prevails again.

Here are two different views of the Pain-Capable Bill, offered by women whose experiences give them a perspective that I’m sure most Senators lack. These are taken from public posts on social media.

Darlene Pawlik at TheDarlingPrincess.com, “The Law is a Teacher” (excerpt):

This bill teaches that children over 20 weeks gestation deserve protection from the horrific pain of having arms and legs torn off or their heads and chests crushed at the hands of abortionists. It further teaches that, a similar child who’s unfortunate enough to be the second victim of rape does not deserve to be protected form that same excruciating death.

…It is very important to note that perhaps, the one person, the mom, who could redeem the situation would be left with the guilt of committing an atrocity against another innocent victim. This could set her up for post traumatic stress responses for the rest of her life.

…I was not only conceived by a violent rape, but my first child was born as a result of sex trafficking. I am the target of this kind of legislation….

Of course, I’ll ask you to remove the exceptions. These exceptions undermine to premise of the bill. They are discriminatory and unjust. No child should receive the death sentence for the crime of their father.

Catherine Adair on Facebook:

I find it really hard to talk about the defeat of the 20-week abortion bill by Senate Democrats. Every time I think about it, I am right back in the abortion clinic, staring at a jar filled with the severed arms and legs of a baby who just moments before had been ripped apart in [its] mother’s womb. I am right back to that place where I told mothers that the doctor was going to “gently extract the contents of the uterus.” Women in their 23rd week of pregnancy were lied to and told it was a simple “procedure.”

Nobody told them that they and their baby would be in agony as the doctor used forceps and sharp instruments to dismember their child, pulling and tugging until the baby was ripped apart and he could pull the body out, piece by piece.

…To see Senate Democrats high-fiving each other on the Senate floor truly left me sickened….What kind of a society allows such barbaric killing? What kind of a society allows late-term abortion to be used as a way to generate profits for a body parts selling industry? Have people lost all sense of their humanity?

Even writing this I can smell the sick, horrifying smell of the abortion procedure room. It is something that will never leave me. I want to run and hide and pretend like this barbarism isn’t happening. I truly can’t bear the horror. But I have to say something, if only in memory of the thousands of babies whose blood I have on my hands.

Dear God, I implore you to awaken those who are blind, those who helped to defeat this bill, and those who voted against it. Please open their eyes. Please give them back their humanity. Please have mercy on us.

In New Hampshire: the Viable Fetus Protection Act

Rep. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford) is leading a team of sponsors on HB 1680, to restrict abortions after viability. Restrict, not ban: it has exceptions (though none for rape and incest). Far from undermining Roe, it is consistent with Roe’s holding that the state may assert an interest in prenatal life in the latter stages of pregnancy. New Hampshire is a place of abortion extremism, where unregulated providers can do the deed anytime until the preborn child comes to term. HB 1680 is an attempt to change that, in a modest way.

The bill does not pretend to push against any constitutional limits. It doesn’t pretend to be about personhood. It is a straightforward bid “to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of viable unborn fetuses.” It even leaves the determination of viability to the “treating physician,” meaning the abortion provider.

I support the bill as a step toward loosening the grip of abortion absolutists on my state’s public policy, just as I supported Murphy’s HB 578 last year.

New Hampshire Right to Life takes a different view.

This bill prohibits post-viability abortions (which NHRTL supports) but it also includes exceptions for the [unrestrained] health of the mother; for Twin To Twin Transfer (TTS) syndrome; and for Fetal anomalies incompatible with life. NHRTL cannot support enacting law that explicitly excludes any class of humans from legal protection. [brackets and parentheses in original]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that if – if – HB 1680 is defeated or derailed, abortion advocates will be high-fiving in Reps Hall just as they did in the U.S. Capitol the other day. And once again, they won’t be high-fiving over the defeat of “exceptions.”

 

Another writer’s view: “Anti-Trafficking Task Force in N.H.?”

Darlene Pawlik (photo: thedarlingprincess.com)

Recommended reading: make your way over to Darlene Pawlik’s blog, The Darling Princess, for a critical look at an anti-human-trafficking task force in New Hampshire. Darlene is on target with her concerns about the “New Hampshire Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force Advisory Committee” and its recent hire, a woman not unsympathetic to decriminalizing sexual exploitation.

Darlene writes,

It was frustrating news to see that an outspoken advocate of decriminalizing prostitution entirely, including buyers and pimps, would be taking the lead for the NH anti-trafficking task force. Her smooth talk of decriminalizing the sex trade to ensure safety for sex workers shields the most contemptible practice of human slavery. Her motives may be well-meaning, but she is terribly misinformed.

…Decriminalizing pimping and the sex trade would tie the hands of investigators. The buyers and the sellers would be able to continue their devastating business, while victims would have no clear way out. Sex trafficking is not an event, but a process and the results of that process. Sex trafficking cannot exist without the existence of prostitution.

Read the whole thing. I hope some legislators come across Darlene’s post, too.


On legalizing exploitation: HB 287

Sometimes, my day job brings to my attention some bills in Concord that I would have otherwise missed. This one is straight out of are-you-kidding-me territory: HB 287, “establishing a committee to study the decriminalization of sex work.” That’s prostitution, in the PC lexicon.

Don’t laugh. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend Ought to Pass, until in a fit of either common sense or leadership arm-twisting (I honestly don’t know which), they took it back. You can’t even see evidence of that vote on the docket anymore. Instead, you see that the executive (voting) session was “recessed” until February 14.


That’s do-over time. I hope they get it right. The bill’s text, listing the agencies to be consulted for the “study,” makes clear that the question is not whether to decriminalize prostitution, but when and how.  Otherwise, the committee would have been charged with hearing from survivors of commercial sex trafficking, and with people who work with those survivors.

When I saw the bill, I began asking questions, and I was very shortly in touch with women from around the country who have been active in efforts to resist treating – exploiting – people as sexual commodities. Without exception, all were concerned about some existing laws relating to prostitution – treating trafficked minors as criminals, for example.

Making commercial sex legal isn’t the answer.

I am still absorbing all that I have heard and read from the women fighting for human dignity in this policy arena. Some of them are trafficking survivors. They take legislation like HB 287 personally.

Thanks to them, I’m now in touch with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which is among other things a clearinghouse for public policy information. Maybe the next bill  will task a “study” committee with hearing from the Center. The current bill doesn’t. Likewise, World Without Exploitation is a resource not cited in HB 287.

Darlene Pawlik has a message for the committee, and she has shared it in her blog The Darling Princess.  She is an amazing Granite State woman and a powerful advocate for fellow survivors of sexual abuse.

Real people, human beings with dignity and value are worthy the protection of the law. People should not be sold. People should not be purchased.

You are seated on the committee charged with public safety. This isn’t about installing a crosswalk.

Graphic courtesy National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

By the way, did you know that Amnesty International has come out in favor of full decriminalization of prostitution? Their concern for human rights and dignity, which has been exemplary in many cases, falls to pieces when the subject is abortion or commercialized sex.

Buying and selling people is bad public policy. If a study committee is going to start with assumptions, start with that one.

Update: On February 14, 2017, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 12-8 to “retain” HB 287. That means that the bill has not been killed but it will not be advanced to the full House this year.

 

UL: “unofficial sources” say ethics complaint dismissed

Update: Reporter Dave Solomon reports in the New Hampshire Sunday News that New Hampshire’s Executive Branch Ethics Committee has dismissed Darlene Pawlik’s complaint against Governor Maggie Hassan and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. Solomon reports in the State House Dome column that he got the news from “unofficial sources, since all complaints are considered behind closed doors, unless the committee decides to conduct an investigation.”

Pawlik’s complaint was formally submitted for consideration at the ethics committee’s August 3 meeting. She told me a day before the scheduled meeting that she would not be allowed to listen in.

Pawlik alleged that Hassan and Van Ostern should have recused themselves from proceedings involving state contracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, since both officials have received campaign donations from PP.

Business as usual will continue.

See Leaven for the Loaf’s earlier report on Pawlik’s complaint here

Ethics in theory and practice

Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)
Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov photo)

(See update, August 7.)

The front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader today carries a welcome headline – below the fold, but front page nonetheless: “Planned Parenthood votes cited.” The kicker beneath: “Ethics complaint: Campaign contributions called a factor in Right to Life member’s complaint against [Governor Maggie] Hassan, [Executive Councilor Colin] Van Ostern”.

Darlene Pawlik
Darlene Pawlik

The complainant is Darlene Pawlik, who as the article notes is a Right to Life member. Left unspecified is her work as vice-president of Save the 1. She doesn’t waste time feeling intimidated.

Pawlik’s complaint is about donations to Hassan’s and Van Ostern’s campaigns as well as expenditures not coordinated with the candidates during the 2012 and 2014 campaign cycles. Was it ethical for Hassan to support and Van Ostern to vote on subsequent PP business, including the recent do-over?

Is it ethical under New Hampshire law and regulation for elected officials to participate in votes involving groups that have given campaign contributions to those officials?

Moot point, in the view of PP of Northern New England’s vice-president of public policy, as quoted in the Union Leader. She “declined to comment”, but was moved to note that PPNNE and its Political Action Fund (note the possessive) are “separate and distinct organizations with different funding, different activities and different tax status.”

A year ago this month, I looked at some of the PPNNE donations – more like investments – in the 2014 Executive Council races. It was clear at that time that investments in candidates yielded significant dividends for the regions’s largest abortion provider.

So who’s going to hear this ethics complaint? An agency of which I’ve been hitherto unaware: the Executive Branch Ethics Committee, whose next meeting may or may not be held on August 3. Its last three scheduled monthly meetings were cancelled. No complaints to consider? I don’t know, but they sure have one now.

Van Ostern and Hassan’s spokesman have responded to Pawlik’s complaint as one might expect, using words like “baseless,” “false,” “frivolous,” and – my personal favorite – “purely motivated by politics.”

And when Hassan and Van Ostern say something’s motivated by politics, they know whereof they speak.

Stay tuned. Let’s find out if ethics in New Hampshire’s executive branch is simply a theory.