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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
I interviewed Rebecca a couple of years ago. When asked about the no-exceptions position being a tough sell, she replied, “We need to speak words of life and value. Even pro-lifers need to be careful in the way they communicate. We want to change hearts and minds….Point out that rape and incest exceptions benefit the perpetrator. Abortion hides evidence of his crime. Protect a woman from rape and abortion, not from a baby.”
Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire, also of Save the 1, is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life. She was conceived in rape and as a teenager was sexually trafficked. Today, she speaks and writes about the need to defend life at all stages, regardless of the circumstances of conception. In a 2013 interview with me, Darlene said that when she decided to go public with her story, a friend advised her not to. Darlene went ahead anyway. “I said stop. No more secrets. I am the ‘exception.’”
Darlene’s web site, thedarlingprincess.com, carries the tag line “Bad beginnings do not necessitate bad endings.” She writes, “I am so passionate about the value of every life; whether one is conceived with wine and roses, in a test tube or as a result of violence. I absolut[e]ly reject the utilitarian view that people are valuable only if they can contribute to society in arbitrarily contrived ways. We should all hold to the Declaration of Independence’s admonition that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One’s right to life trumps all other rights.”
More than sixty people gathered in Manchester on Monday for an evening of prayer, pizza, and preparation in advance of Wednesday’s 40 Days for Life launch. A similar rally was held the previous day in Greenland. In Manchester, Save the 1’s Darlene Pawlik and attorney Michael Tierney were the featured speakers at the event emceed by 40DFL coordinator Jen Robidoux.
Quoting 40DFL leaders David Bereit and Shawn Carney, Jen said, “We are the last sign of hope for the mother and baby when they arrive, but also the first sign of mercy to the women as they leave.” She and her leadership team have ambitious goals, and they urge everyone volunteering for 40DFL to invite others to join in. “Invite people from your church – remember, 40 Days for Life is nondenominational. Invite people to events like the midpoint rally. Let’s fill those vigil hours [7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week]. It’s time to blow the trumpets of victory. Tonight is the beginning of the end of abortion in Manchester.”
Jen reminded everyone that accepting 40DFL’s Statement of Peace is a requirement for participation in the campaign. Common sense dictates that people praying on the sidewalk outside abortion facilities keep a cell phone or camera handy to record any incidents, and “pray with at least one other person.” (As someone who’s on the calendar for some 7 a.m. shifts, I know I can expect some solo time. Still, her guidelines make sense.)
Darlene is fresh from an appearance on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, where she joined other Save the 1 representatives to talk about why she’s pro-life in all circumstances, especially “hard cases” like rape – because she herself is a child of rape and a survivor of sexual trafficking. She’s a New Hampshire activist with a heart for women and girls in crisis, particularly those who are being sexually abused. “The girls are hard” when they approach abortion facilities, she warned. From her own experience, she knows that some of the teens at abortion facilities are brought there by their abusers. “The mindset is ‘this is what I have to do; I can’t tell my parents.’ Your message needs to be ‘there are places you can go besides here.'” To sidewalk counselors, she says “You’re the heroes here.”
Michael began with a brisk reminder: “This is not a picket or a protest, and it IS legal.” His listeners were eager for an update on the buffer zone lawsuit, Reddy v. Foster. “The buffer zone law is all about squelching pro-life speech. Why? Because the pro-life message, especially prayer, is effective.” In a status report filed in federal court last Friday, all parties to the suit agreed that there had been no “factual changes” since a temporary restraining order was issued in July to block enforcement of New Hampshire’s buffer zone law. The restraining order thus remains in place. He asked participants to contact him or Jen Robidoux if any signs go up outside facilities, delineating a zone – “we need to report that to the Court.”
Why did New Hampshire go ahead with a law targeting free speech, right after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law from Massachusetts? After all, the Supreme Court decision prompted the cities of Burlington, VT and Portland, ME to repeal abortion facility “buffer” laws. MIchael said that New Hampshire is attempting to show that its law is different, because the state itself isn’t squelching speech, but merely giving abortion providers the option of doing so. A novel approach, to be sure. It’s possible that the law might be repealed by legislators next January. Michael warned that it’s an open question whether it would be a straight repeal or a repeal followed by replacement with something worse.
Speaking of the Planned Parenthood facility in Manchester, where 40DFL has had several campaigns, Michael said PP knows it can’t defend the law. “So, they’re trying to figure out what they can get from people outside to show that we need a buffer zone. Be on your best behavior not because there are video cameras, but because of point #3 [in the 40DFL statement of peace]: ‘I will show compassion and reflect Christ’s love to all abortion facility employees, volunteers and customers.’ It’s as simple as that. Think about how best you can show Christ’s love, and you’ll be fine. Just because a person goes into a clinic, it doesn’t mean you’re not having a positive effect.”
Photos from the Greenland kickoff rally (photos by Jen Robidoux)