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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Gallery: New Hampshire March for Life 2018

A cloudy January thaw gave way to a freezing but brilliantly-sunny day for the 2018 March for Life in Concord, New Hampshire. New Hampshire Right to Life’s annual event  drew more than 300 marchers for the procession down Main Street beginning at the State House.

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The featured speaker at the post-march gathering was Jennifer Christie of Save the 1. She is a rape survivor and mother of a son of whom she says, “We are infinitely richer for this child being in the world.”  (Read Jennifer’s story at the Save the 1 blog.)

Jennifer Christie speaks at N.H. March for Life.
Jennifer Christie of Save the 1 speaks at NH’s March for Life.

The march route goes past the Equality Center, an abortion facility on Main Street. The city of Concord has developed over the years a way of handling the March for Life and the counter-demonstration that accompanies it: every other year, the March for Life may walk in front of the Center. Other years, the marchers must detour a block around the Center. 2018 was a Main Street year. The counter-demonstrators concealed from view  the sign near the Center’s front steps declaring “Respectful, Open, Affirming.”

I spotted a few state representatives: Reps. Glenn Cordelli, Linda Gould, Steve Negron, and Jeanine Notter.  Rep. Notter spoke to marchers about her bill on informed consent for abortion (HB 1707), which will have its committee hearing in Concord on Wednesday, January 17.  Rep. Negron spoke briefly about his campaign for the Congressional seat currently held by Ann McLane Kuster.

More from the day:

 

House refuses to repeal buffer zone law

The New Hampshire House has given thumbs-down to repealing the state’s unenforced buffer zone law, rejecting HB 589 with a 191-165 “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) vote.

This is the third unsuccessful attempt to repeal 2014’s buffer zone law, which gives abortion providers the ability to prohibit exercise of First Amendment rights on public property near their facilities. Last year’s repeal attempt was passed by the House before dying in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s law is similar to the Massachusetts law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley.

Before the vote on HB 589, Reps. Jeanine Notter, Kurt Wuelper, and Dan Hynes spoke in favor of the repeal bill. I’m proud that two of them represent my town.


Here is the link to the roll call on HB 589. Keep in mind that the motion was ITL, so a “yea” vote favored killing the repeal effort. The “nays” came from reps who presumably don’t want to deny First Amendment rights to peaceful pro-life witnesses.

Among the 165 representatives who opposed killing the repeal bill were four non-Republicans. I tip my cap to Democrats Amanda Bouldin, Raymond Gagnon, and Jean Jeudy for being willing to take a position at variance with that of their party’s leaders. Libertarian Caleb Dyer cast a pro-First-Amendment vote, too.

Most of the 191 votes to kill the repeal effort came from Democrats, but 34 Republicans lined up behind them.

The cost of the buffer zone law, so far

A postscript to yesterday’s New Hampshire House committee vote on buffer zone repeal, HB 589: Rep. Gary Hopper (R-Weare) read aloud to his fellow committee members a communication he had received from Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice in response to a query from him about what the state has spent so far defending the buffer zone law.

He read the letter aloud in a meeting that was open to the public; he posted it today on Facebook; his correspondent is a state employee; the topic was state business. Sounds like quotable stuff to me. So here is Deputy AG Rice to Rep. Hopper, as posted by Rep. Hopper this morning:

…So far, the Department has devoted 313.75 hours of attorney time in defending the buffer zone law, which equates to $43,611.25 (313.75 hours x $139.00/hr). We do not track the time that support staff devotes to any particular case so I cannot provide a cost for that. As far as future costs, that will depend on what the plaintiffs chose to do. If they appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, we would file an objection, which I would estimate would involve approximately 40 hours of attorney time at $139/hr, or $5560 in cost. If the US Supreme Court accepted the appeal, the Department would likely devote several hundred hours on the appeal. I am unable to better estimate the amount of time required.

The plaintiffs could opt to refrain from further litigation unless and until a buffer zone is actually being considered. At this point, I cannot estimate if or when that would occur, or the amount of time that this office would spend on the litigation.

Recall that in the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley decision overturning a Massachusetts buffer zone law, taxpayers not only covered the cost for the state to defend an ultimately unconstitutional law but were later on the hook for $1.2 million in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.

I’m sure Massachusetts’ costs started small. Look where they ended up.


Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017

[Update, 2/22/17: the original version of this post listed Rep. Jordan Ulery as absent from the hearing. Rep. Dan Hynes has advised me that Rep. Ulery is no longer on the Judiciary Committee. I regret the error.]

Update, 2/23/17: Well, well, well. Here’s a photo of the official roll call.

The upshot of all those scratched-out checkmarks is 10-7 in favor of “Inexpedient to Legislate” on buffer zone repeal, HB 589. The formal, “official” tally is as follows.

Voting in favor of ITL on HB 589: Reps. Rouillard, Graham (that’s a change from what I heard when the vote was cast), Leavitt, Wall. Horrigan, Berch, Kenison, Keans, DiLorenzo, and Mulligan.

Voting against ITL on HB 589 and therefore supporting peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights: Reps. Hagan, Hopper, Sylvia, Hull, Wuelper, Hynes, and Janvrin.  Continue reading “Buffer zone repeal House committee vote, 2017”