UL: Manchester PP Seeks Variance

The April 10 New Hampshire Union Leader has a front-page article announcing that Planned Parenthood is seeking a zoning variance to remodel its Pennacook Street facility. Reporter Mark Hayward includes a brief reminder of how PP got the building in the first place 18 years ago: it sued its way in.

For more about that, see Leaven’s May 2014 post “How PPNNE got its Manchester building – and how a federal court helped.”

The UL article goes on to quote PP’s spokeswoman: “Our services are generally staying the same. It’s pretty much going to be business as usual.” Yup. Pretty much. Generally.

And then comes the last paragraph: “Planned Parenthood said it plans to seek a conditional use permit from the Planning Board to address a parking shortfall if the variance goes through.”

For anyone who has followed the buffer zone issue, and for anyone familiar with the parking situation near 24 Pennacook Street, that’s an interesting sentence. Will a “parking shortfall” provide PP with an excuse to post a buffer zone, in the name of safety? What would be the terms of a conditional use permit? Would it mean setting aside some of the public on-street parking area for PP use, thus effectively imposing a buffer against peaceful pro-life witnesses without using the buffer zone law?

Or maybe “it’s pretty much going to be business as usual” is a straightforward statement. We’ll see.

 

Bearing fruit, making progress: latest 40 Days for Life campaign concludes

A portion of this post is adapted from remarks I delivered at the closing rally for 40 Days for Life in Manchester, New Hampshire.

This has been one of those 40 Days for Life campaigns that I refuse to call a “Spring” campaign. Too darn cold and snowy. So what did we have for the closing rally? Temps in the mid-forties, and a forecast of rain. Spring rain! How good that sounded.

40 Days for Life participants in prayer
The winter/spring 2018 40 Days for Life campaign in Manchester, NH draws to a close with prayer. All photos in this post by Ellen Kolb.

I was blessed during this campaign to be able to participate in campaigns in Concord and Greenland as well as Manchester. Manchester’s sort of home base, and I’m grateful to campaign coordinator Sheila and her team. Traveling was good, though. I saw 40 Days for Life through fresh eyes as I visited different towns.

Leader of Manchester NH 40 Days for Life campaign
Sheila D. led the Manchester, NH campaign. She’s a volunteer, as are her colleagues on the leadership team.

One of the things I love about 40 Days for Life is its presence in so many cities at the same time. If I was praying at 7 a.m. in Manchester, even with just one other person, I knew we were praying and witnessing in solidarity with many other people.

We have good days – a conversation with a woman considering abortion, a “save,” maybe just a smile from a passerby – and bad days when we feel “what’s the point?” When that happens, remember that peaceful, consistent pro-life witness during 40 Days for Life is touching people not involved with the facility outside which we stand. The neighbors see us. So do the driver of the school bus rumbling down Pennacook Street, and the woman walking to the Rite-Aid on the corner, and the guy sweeping the streets. There’s no telling when or where or how peaceful witness will bear fruit.

We all know that it’s not bearing fruit at the State House at the moment. March was a discouraging month, legislatively. It would be easy for me to focus on that. Culture is about more than politics, though.

This was brought home to me at a recent hearing in Concord, where I met someone just getting started in pro-life work. At the same hearing was an old friend who’s been in the vineyard with me, so to speak, for about 30 years. The three of us got to talking. My new friend asked us if New Hampshire had made any pro-life progress over the years.

I felt like a know-it-all fifth grader. Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! I got ready to launch into a sixty-second rant about how terrible our laws are relative to the right to life. As I drew breath to start, though, my old friend said, “oh yes, definitely.” Knocked me right off my soapbox. New friend and I exclaimed at the same time, “what do you mean?”

My old friend then laid down a bit of truth that put politics in its place. “Thirty years ago, there were seven crisis pregnancy centers in the state. Now, there are 30 places, pro-life places, where women can go.”

Think about that. Thirty places. And they’re not just about crisis pregnancies, either. For example, what does every center publish on its wish list for donations? Toddler-size diapers and training pants. So much for only caring about babies until they’re born. And for moms and dads, many centers offer parenting classes and assistance with job-hunting. Some places offer housing for pregnant and parenting women who would otherwise be homeless.

Each of the 30 places began with one person seeing a need. It takes a team to open and sustain a pro-life project, but each one starts with a single person with compassion and vision. Think of that next time you’re in prayer, alone, wondering if you can make a difference. Yes, you can.

We begin laying the groundwork for the Fall campaign today. Let’s spread the news. If you have pro-life friends, if you’re in a service group or prayer circle, if you have a podcast, if you are part of any pro-life organization that needs a speaker, invite someone on the 40 Days for Life leadership team. I’m saying this without consulting any of them, but I feel safe in saying that they would welcome the chance to tell more people about what 40 Days for Life is about.

I want those team leaders to get so many speaking engagements that they can’t keep up. Let them get mad at me for putting them in that predicament. It’ll be worth it.

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Free Speech Case Could Affect Pregnancy Care Centers

Arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20. At issue is a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to display information on how to obtain subsidized abortions.

Here’s a recent GrokTalk podcast in which I discuss the case with Steve MacDonald of Granite Grok.
Listen to “The First Amendment Doesn't Apply to You If You Are Pro-Life” on Spreaker.

 

N.H. House Votes Approaching

Update: a heavy House agenda and a session-shortening snowstorm have moved the votes on these bills to Wednesday, March 21, 2018. This will be the second delay for the vote. The deadline for the House to act on the bill is close of the business day on March 22.

Tuesday, March 6, begins what might be a three-day session for the New Hampshire House. The representatives have an agenda that’s about 150 pages long. And yes, there’s a snowstorm in the forecast, as if the schedule weren’t already dicey enough.

Among the bills to be voted on are HB 1680, the Viable Fetus Protection Act; HB 1787, conscience rights for medical professionals; HB 1707, abortion information/informed consent; HB 1721, a ban on coerced abortions.

No, it’s not too late to email your reps. Many of them have smartphones that they use to to check email and text messages during the House session.

Today’s civics lesson: Find your state representatives’ email address via this link on the General Court (legislature) web site. There are phone numbers for each rep as well; some are cell numbers and some are landlines. If you recognize a cell number, use it for a text message Tuesday morning, March 6. Don’t call at unsocial hours (some people have to be reminded of that).

Send a separate message for each bill. In an email, pack the basic message into the subject line in case that’s all the rep has time to read. When writing to your own district’s reps, be sure to mention your town. A subject line might be “Yes on HB 1680, from a [town name] resident.” Keep the message short and courteous (again, some people need to be reminded; present company excepted, I’m sure).

I’ll be monitoring the House session online, and you can, too, if you’re so inclined. Look for the Streaming Media link on the General Court web site.