Abortion Insurance Mandate On Its Way to Governor Sununu

The New Hampshire House voted today to concur with the Senate’s abortion insurance mandate. Following an administrative procedure known as enrollment, HB 685 will go to Governor Chris Sununu. He has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the measure.

The Governor’s office can be reached at (603) 271-2121. I’ll be asking for a veto of HB 685.

The House vote on concurrence was 196-132. A “Yea” supported advancing the insurance mandate, despite the fact that the House had held no hearing on the bill as amended.

As previously reported, HB 685 was amended by the Senate to remove its original language on a different topic, replacing it with an abortion insurance mandate. The House violated its own rules (#45-b, if anyone asks) by taking up the amended bill at all, never mind concurring with the Senate’s changes.

If HB 685 becomes law, you will be helping to subsidize abortion if you are an insurance provider covered by the bill, if you are a business owner who offers health insurance as a benefit to employees under a policy covered by this bill, and if you are an individual paying premiums for a policy covered by this bill.

Conscience rights were dismissed by the House and Senate majorities when they voted on HB 685 as amended. Will the Governor take the same approach?

Earlier posts on HB 685: Second Abortion Insurance Mandate Bill Created in Rushed Process, House to Vote on Abortion Insurance Mandate

House to Vote On Abortion Insurance Mandate June 30

The New Hampshire House will vote on June 30 whether to agree with a Senate amendment creating an abortion insurance mandate bill. The House will vote to concur (agree) or non-concur (disagree) with the Senate’s changes to HB 685. The House intends to wrap up its session on the 30th, coming back only in September to consider vetoed bills.

If a majority votes to non-concur, HB 685 and the abortion insurance mandate will die. If a majority votes instead to concur, the bill will go to Governor Chris Sununu. The Governor has made no public statement on whether he’ll veto HB 685.

Reaching House members

To reach House members before Tuesday, June 30, look up your district and representatives’ names at the General Court website. Note that you may live in two districts, one for your town and another “floterial” district covering several towns. In that case, contact representatives from both districts.

To kill HB 685, the message is please vote to non-concur with HB 685.

Brief and courteous messages are always the way to go.

Reaching out to the Governor will be the next step if the House concurs. If you want to get a jump on that, call the Governor’s office at (603) 271-2121 and ask for a veto if HB 685 gets to his desk. Thumbs up to the staff at the Governor’s office, which fields all such calls and makes sure the Governor hears about them.

The sneaky swap: senate’s non-germane amendment

As previously reported, HB 685 bears no relationship to the original bill passed by the House. As introduced, HB 685 was about insurance for ambulance services. That’s what the House passed. The Senate, where a majority is more interested in abortion than in ambulance services, amended the bill by stripping out the original language altogether and replacing it with an abortion insurance mandate. The vote on the non-germane amendment – meaning the amendment has no relationship to the topic of the original bill – was 14-10 along party lines.

To add insult to injury, the Senate majority accepted a new name for the bill: “The Reproductive Health Parity Act of 2020.”

Even a House member who’s a fan of abortion mandates could take offense at the Senate’s casual dismissal of a House bill. Procedure alone is reason enough to torpedo HB 685 as amended.

There’s more: there was NO House hearing on the material in HB 685 as amended. No House member should be supporting that kind of sneaky process.

If this procedural nonsense succeeds, it will set a precedent for future legislatures. Its use won’t be limited to one party or the other. No House member should be willing to open that door. No representative voting to concur with HB 685 as amended will have any business objecting if his or her own pet bill falls prey to shenanigans in the future.

Because the House intends to finish this session’s regular business on June 30, without forming any conference committees, a vote to non-concur will kill HB 685.

I’ll add a link to the roll call after the House vote.

Second Abortion Insurance Mandate Bill Created in Rushed Process

Full sessions of the New Hampshire legislature are back in business after a 12- week recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why not adjourn until next January? Because apparently there are some bills the current leadership considers important enough to rush along, short-circuiting ordinary procedure. Case in point: mandating that some health insurance policies cover abortion.

inventing a bill, or a short course in non-germane amendments

SB 486, misleadingly entitled “relative to insurance plans that cover maternity benefits,” was passed by the Senate last March in the last session before the COVID recess. The House has not taken up the bill due to the recess, and thanks to a procedural vote on June 11, the House is not likely to take it up now. (More about that later.)

So abortion advocates in the Senate Commerce Committee did something creative: they took an existing House bill on another subject (HB 685, insurance coverage for ambulance services) and amended it to remove the original subject matter entirely and replace it with the text of SB 486. The full Senate is likely to vote on the new-and-not-improved HB 685 on Tuesday, June 16.

But when was the hearing, you ask? The hearing AND the Senate Commerce Committee vote on HB 685 as amended was on June 11, via videoconference and YouTube. If you blinked, you missed it.

“parity” = “you gotta pay”

A quick review, from this blog’s coverage of SB 486 last March, keeping in mind that HB 685 as amended by the Commerce committee now contains the same mandate as SB 486:

SB 486 will force some health insurance plans that cover maternity benefits to cover abortion as well. Committee recommendation is “ought to pass,” party-line vote. SB 486 deserves an “inexpedient to legislate” vote. [Editor’s note: the Senate later passed the bill along party lines, Democrats in the majority.] Testimony at the hearing affirmed that most health insurance policies written in New Hampshire already cover abortion. That’s not enough for abortion advocates. They say “parity” demands that abortion coverage be mandated, since abortion is health care, too. Only it isn’t. For another view, you can read Planned Parenthood’s glowing endorsement of the bill.

leavenfortheloaf.com, March 9, 2020

If SB 486 or HB 685 (as amended) were to become law, you would be helping to subsidize abortion if you are an insurance provider covered by the bill, if you are a business owner who offers health insurance as a benefit to employees under a policy covered by this bill, and if you are an individual paying premiums for a policy covered by this bill.

Conscience rights? Not persuasive to the current Commerce Committee majority.

Remember the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare? That was just the preview. Now abortion advocates at the state level want to mandate abortion coverage in health insurance policies. While these bills purport to apply to only certain policies, the fact is that they open the door to treating abortion as a form of health care that must be covered by all health insurance policies that offer maternity coverage.

timing is everything

If the Senate passes the amended HB 685 at its June 16 session, as seems likely, then it will go to the House – not for a hearing, mind you. HB 685 already had a House hearing before crossover in March, on its original subject. Instead, the House would merely have to vote to concur with the Senate changes in order to send HB 685 to the Governor for his signature.

The House’s last session is June 30, so the clock is ticking.

what the…or why are there two bills?

Supporters of the original abortion mandate bill correctly surmised that the House would not vote to extend its calendar past June 30. (Basically, both chambers are trying to catch up on three missed months in three weeks.) SB 486’s supporters were afraid there wouldn’t be time for the House to go through its usual procedure with bills received from the Senate, including a public hearing.

So to guarantee that an abortion insurance mandate would get a House vote, the Senate Commerce Committee took the path of completely re-writing a bill that had already gone through the House: HB 685. If the Senate votes to pass the amended bill, all the House will have to do is vote to agree or disagree with the amendment. The current pro-abortion majority in Senate and House make passage a near-certainty.

what you can do

Civics lesson, free of charge: Never assume a legislator knows what you want, and never let a legislator say you weren’t heard from.

If you oppose HB 685 as amended by the Senate Commerce Committee, contact your senator and say so, before June 16.

Would Governor Sununu sign an abortion insurance mandate if it came to his desk? Stay tuned.

Pushing back: testimonies against assisted suicide, part 2

Here are some excerpts from press conference and testimony against New Hampshire’s assisted suicide bill, HB 1659. Find part 1 at this link.

Gary Cahoon, owner of assisted living facility

…The current state of palliative care is such that people need not die in pain. None of our residents have ever expressed a regret that they had not had the opportunity to kill themselves at an earlier time.

Aside from death, another unpleasant aspect of life that we have had to deal with is family members who exploit, abuse or neglect a vulnerable person. We have taken in frail elderly people from truly horrific households.  Financial exploitation, however, is much more common than outright abuse. I think for example of the nephew who got his aunt to grant him a financial power of attorney in exchange for a candy bar. I have no doubt that some of the abusers I have dealt with would have readily attempted to persuade or coerce their family member into suicide if they benefited as a result. We should not give the potential abuser one more tool to exploit the vulnerable.

As healthcare providers, my wife and I feel that it is our duty and our mission to help our residents achieve the best possible quality of life and not to help them end their lives. The door to assisted suicide is one which, we believe, should never be opened.

(Mr. Cahoon and his wife own Friendship Manor, an assisted living home in New Ipswich.)

Gary Cahoon of Friendship Manor in New Ipswich, speaking in opposition to HB 1659.

Nancy Elliott, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA

In her testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Nancy Elliott – former state representative from Merrimack, who once served on the committee herself – took on the references within HB 1659-FN to “mental anguish” and “embarrassing indignities.”

This sounds like a disability. Before I lost my husband, that was the description of him. It is cruel for the state to say that someone like my husband should not want to live and be pushed toward suicide.

Steven Wade, Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire

As you may be aware, suicide has reached epidemic proportions in our state, [with] the number of suicides nearly doubling in NH in the last 10 years. NH DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] and suicide prevention organizations are working hard to implement a new program of “Zero Suicides” in New Hampshire, along with renewed focus on “Help Seeking”.

HB 1659 is an affront and a contradiction to these suicide prevention efforts and to all the hard work by so many suicide prevention advocates and volunteers in NH.

We will argue that instead of legalizing assisted suicide as medical care, we should be working to greatly expand funding and access to palliative and mental care for those most-at risk for suicide in our state – persons living with life-long disability, veterans living with TBI and PTSD,
at-risk teens, first responders, and elders vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. This also includes many of NH’s low income citizens and persons on Medicaid and under managed care, who do not have access to needed palliative and mental health care.

Steven Wade is executive director of the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire, and facilitator for the Coalition Against State-Approved Suicide.

Pushing back: testimonies against assisted suicide, part 1

New Hampshire’s assisted suicide bill for the 2020 legislative session will get its first test on March 4 when the House Judiciary Committee votes on HB 1659-FN. In New Hampshire, no bill can be killed in committee, but the committee’s recommendation will be highly influential when the full House votes later in March.

What follows in this post, to be continued in a second post later, are excerpts from a press conference and testimony in opposition to HB 1659-FN. As part of the Coalition Against State-Approved Suicide (CAS-AS NH), I worked with several of the people who are quoted here. Learned from them, too. Perhaps you will as well.

The Safford Family

Lori Safford and her sons Samuel and Ben, all New Hampshire residents, each testified to the committee.

LORI

I’m here to oppose HB 1659. Eight years ago my children and I arrived home to find my husband dead in his office. He was only 53. My teenage daughter fell into a deep depression….

Despite 6 months of counseling, I received a call at 2am from her closest friend telling me to go check on her. I found her with a bottle of pills and a knife. She was on the phone with a suicide hotline. Losing her dad and having 2 brothers with a terminal illness was just too much for her. 

Fortunately, we found a new counselor and she worked through the pain and sadness. I couldn’t imagine losing her to suicide. Suicide is final, there are no do-overs.

[Now she is] a Junior at Biola University in California and is on the Dean’s list. She is a strong, bright, talented young lady who loves her life and is doing great things…

Life is a gift from God and yet pain and suffering are a normal part of human existence. Suffering is a gift that helps us connect with others and to grow in love and compassion for our fellow man. Please vote no on HB 1659.

BEN

Assisted Suicide is not medical care. Medical care is defined as the maintenance or improvement of health. Medical professionals should do their utmost to preserve life, not end it.

I have a terminal illness called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I suffer with physical weakness, discomfort and the loss of my independence every day. Despite these circumstances, I have enjoyed life to the fullest and have achieved success beyond my wildest expectations.

I have not lost a shred of dignity because of my circumstances. And I believe I would lose dignity if I gave up. How would killing myself give me dignity?…

The legislature of NH should reject HB 1659 as an offense against human dignity. I certainly do!

SAMUEL

I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I don’t believe this bill should be passed because assisted suicide is no better than regular suicide. In fact, it’s far worse because a person who is obligated to help you is actually causing you harm. 

…I don’t say this lightly, because at one point I wanted to end my life. Before I could, I realized that I would be making a big mistake. People who want to end their lives often just need help and encouragement. They may think they have become burdens to their families, but I say that no human life is a burden because we are all created with unique abilities.

…The right to die can often become the duty to die. Family members can learn much by taking care of a person with a terminal illness. They can learn compassion, love and gratitude which would be lost if their family member decided to go through with physician-assisted suicide. 

The will to live is where dignity is truly shown, not in the right to die. I believe this bill should not be passed because every life has value despite our pain and suffering.

Lisa Beaudoin, ABLE-NH

…The ongoing devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities is at the heart of HB 1659 no matter how uncomfortable it is to hear me say it. Embedded in the assisted suicide debate is a grimly veiled, ableist narrative which implies that disability is a fate worse than death. The “medical model of disability” which says that disability is a defect, a loss of dignity,  a burden to fixed or eliminated, leaving people with disabilities feeling that they are not quite worthy.   

Lisa Beaudoin of ABLE-NH at press conference with opponents of NH assisted suicide bill
Lisa Beaudoin, ABLE-NH, at press conference with opponents of assisted suicide bill HB 1659.

The statement of purpose in HB 1659 slaps the faces of people with disabilities who depend on others for care, the language itself devalues the experience of people with disabilities. It reduces dependence to indignity.  Elected officials, what sort of message are you sending to people who use wheelchairs? Need help with bathing or feeding? Or who are incontinent?  What sort of message are you sending to people who live their everyday lives with support?  

…Abuse of people with disabilities is a growing problem, making coercion virtually impossible to identify or prevent.  The option of assisted suicide is a scary mix with our broken, for-profit health care system and a cultural narrative which says that disability is bad.    The option of assisted suicide means some people will get suicide prevention while others get suicide assistance, and the difference between the two groups is the health status of the individual and their access to appropriate healthcare, leading to a two-tiered system that results in death to the socially devalued group.  Isn’t that discrimination?

…The state of NH cannot legitimize the devaluation of people with disabilities through the ugly, false ableist rhetoric of “death with dignity” legislation.  In its language, HB 1659 is in opposition to advancing justice for people with disabilities.

(Ms. Beaudoin is the executive director of ABLE-NH [Advocates Building Lasting Equality], advocating for the civil and human rights of children and adults with disabilities.)

Marc Guillemette, Catholic Medical Center

…New Hampshire is in the midst of a suicide crisis.  In 2018 the Center for Disease Control reported that from 1999 to 2016, suicide rates in New Hampshire increased by 48.3%, which was the third highest increase in the country.  If that is not alarming enough, the data regarding youth suicide in New Hampshire is even more troubling.  Like the rest of the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals under 24 years old.  But New Hampshire rates are 50% higher than the national average, and they continue to rise.  In 2017 and 2018 suicide deaths were the highest in two decades among New Hampshire young people.  New Hampshire officials have called it a public health crisis!

The staff of Catholic Medical Center has witnessed firsthand the devastation of suicide.  Our physicians have had to tell parents that their child had died as a result of suicide thus shattering their lives forever.  As a chaplain at CMC and in my professional career, I have had to comfort parents in the midst of their tears they asked why their child had committed suicide.  Those encounters will haunt me forever.

We at CMC have grave concerns that the State of New Hampshire with this proposed physician assisted law will be saying that in “some” cases suicide is “okay” or “permitted.”  It is no coincidence that the suicide rates in the United States began to rise in 1999 when Oregon was the first state to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide….

House bill 1659-N will have a negative impact on New Hampshire’s efforts to address the suicide crisis, for how can we attempt to prevent youth suicide, while declaring with this proposed law that suicide is a valid way to solve the problems of those who have a terminal illness.  Those problems — all of them, including terminal illness — have better and more life-affirming solutions.  

(Mr. Guillemette is the Director of the Office of Catholic Identity at CMC in Manchester.)

Part 2 is here. The NH House Judiciary Committee will accept messages on HB 1659 up until its March 4 vote: HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.