Senate Committee to hear life-issue bills March 30

The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary committee will hold hearings on Tuesday, March 30 on two life-issue bills, HB 233 and HB 625.

The hearing on HB 233, to protect infants who survive attempted abortion, will be at 1 p.m. A hearing on HB 625, to limit late-term abortions, will follow at 1:30. Hearings are still being held remotely, via Zoom videoconference. Members of the public can register online in advance to testify . The same sign-in process is used to register support or opposition without providing testimony.

I described the bills and their course through the House in “House passes two life-issue bills, overturning committee reports.

Members of the public may view the Senate Judiciary hearing using the following links:

  1. Link to Zoom Webinar: https://www.zoom.us/j/91687899729
  2. To listen via telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
    1-301-715-8592, or 1-312-626-6799 or 1-929-205-6099, or 1-253-215-8782, or 1-346-248-7799, or 1-669-900-6833
  3. Or iPhone one-tap: US: +13017158592,,91687899729# or +13126266799,, 91687899729#
  4. Webinar ID: 916 8789 9729

House passes two life-issue bills, overturning committee reports

In all the years I’ve been an advocate for life-issue legislation, I’ve seen very few days when the New Hampshire House has produced two victories – but here we are.

Despite the efforts of the Judiciary Committee, the House on February 24 passed HB 625, to restrict abortions after 24 weeks’ gestation, on a 191-160 roll call vote. (I’ll add a link to the roll call once it’s posted on the General Court website.) Later, after a Democratic effort to deny a quorum, the House passed HB 233, to protect infants surviving attempted abortion. That vote was 181-49, on a division vote.

That born-alive vote has some stories behind it.

The session was not open to the general public except via livestream. What follows is drawn from reports by credentialed media, my communication with House members, and relevant social media posts.

Life-issue bills, not “abortion bills”

First, let’s clarify what was and wasn’t at stake in each bill.

HB 625 is clearly about changing New Hampshire’s abortion-until-birth policy. It’s accurate to call that one an abortion bill. That’s “bill,” singular.

HB 233 protects children who are already born and who happen to have survived attempted abortion. It refers to human beings already born. It does not affect, regulate, or restrict abortion. It is false to claim otherwise. Calling it an abortion bill is an effort to divert attention away from its actual intention: provide enforceable protection for vulnerable infants.

Which one caused more fuss in the House? Not the abortion bill.

A note on party lines

I’m an independent voter, or as the Secretary of State would have it, “undeclared.” I carry no brief for either major party. That said, these life-issue victories on the House floor came with Republicans in the majority.

As for the other party, journalists Kevin Landrigan of the Union Leader and Adam Sexton of WMUR reported on a Democratic walkout over the born-alive bill. I confirmed their reports with a legislator who was on the scene.

Born-alive bill: the walkout

More than eight hundred bills are coming up this year, and one party considered blockage of protection for vulnerable infants worth walking out over. The walkout over HB 233 was prompted not only by the subject but by timing.

The House has a two-day session this week, February 24 and 25. The House calendar for the session is divided into two parts, one for each day. HB 625 was in part one. HB 233, along with buffer zone repeal (HB 430), was in part two.

A House calendar’s “parts” aren’t carved in stone. Any bill can be special-ordered, meaning considered out of order, if a majority of House members agree. Usually, it’s a matter of convenience or housekeeping. Sometimes, however, a special order has teeth to it. So it was with HB 233.

Fresh from victory on the 24-week bill, Republican House Majority Leader Jason Osborne moved to special-order HB 233, meaning move it to the first day of the session. His motion passed, 180-159.

According to the recorded docket for the bill, Rep. Willis Griffith, a Democrat from Manchester, then moved to table the bill. That motion failed, 45-184.

So 339 representatives voted on the special-order motion, while only 229 voted on the tabling motion. The difference was due to a walkout of many of the Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Renny Cushing of Hampton.

Doing the math

There was a method to the madness: the House needs a quorum – a certain number of representatives on duty – to do business, and if enough legislators walk out, there’s no quorum. The tactic only works if the walkout leader does the math right. The walkout over HB 233 flunked that test. A quorum remained, and business went on.

Reportedly, House Speaker Sherman Packard tried to prevent representatives from leaving. The setting of the session – a large indoor sports arena, set up to fit COVID precautions, with many exits – apparently made that impractical. Later, some of those who walked out tried to get back in, once they realized they hadn’t succeeded in shutting the House down. Packard then exercised his authority to keep them out.

Rep. Griffith kept trying to derail the bill. His motion to indefinitely postpone HB 233 failed, 43-188; his motion to send the bill back to committee failed, 40-186. Weary of delay, the House finally voted to limit debate.

The House rejected the Judiciary Committee’s “inexpedient to legislate” recommendation on a 46-186 roll call, then voted “Ought to Pass,” 181-49. The final vote was a division vote, which unlike a roll call does not reveal each representative’s name.

“Cruel” to provide “medically appropriate and reasonable care”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire calls HB 233 “cruel.” A Facebook post by one of my own reps – a Democrat, as it happens – mischaracterized the bill as one that forces people to do bad things “despite parents’ wishes.”

To review, HB 233 calls for “medically appropriate and reasonable care” for infants who survive abortion. No less, no more.

I’m pretty sure my Dem representative didn’t bother to read the bill, relying instead on the ridiculous committee majority report. Otherwise, she must really believe that protection for born-alive infants is a bad thing.

I prefer my legislators to have a more expansive view of human rights.

Walkout fallout

I write this after Day One of the session, with Day Two yet to come. The bruises raised today are unlikely to have healed by 9 a.m. when the House reconvenes.

(…bruises raised by the prospect of protecting infants, no less.)

The buffer zone bill is on Day Two’s agenda. That’s a First Amendment bill. Fearless forecast #1: it will be mischaracterized by its opponents as a matter of reproductive rights.

Fearless forecast #2: no walkouts by either side. Today’s attempt was simply embarrassing.

To the Senate

HB 625 could have been sent to a second House committee (Criminal Justice and Public Safety) for further consideration, but committee chairman Daryl Abbas waived that referral. HB 625 and HB 233 are both on the way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Edited to add name of Senate committee.

Header photo by Cottonbro/Pexels.

“I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down”

Adapted from a 2015 post on this blog.

Peaceful pro-life witness is not Activism Lite.

Recall what peaceful witness called for in 1963, in the face of angry and sometimes violent resistance that had deep political and social roots. Recall Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from those days: I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down.

In 1963, a few months before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, he and many other civil rights activists converged on Birmingham, Alabama to challenge racial segregation. Their campaign was marked by intensive planning and discipline, because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was intent not only on its message but on delivering it the right way. Volunteers for the Birmingham campaign were screened and trained, as King recounted in Why We Can’t Wait. He noted, “Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card.”

Comprehensive commitment

To what did the Birmingham activists commit?

I hereby pledge myself – my person and body – to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain of the demonstration.

King added, “We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating” during the campaign. That took guts. It meant putting aside the natural right of self-defense during the demonstration, even as they faced people who had no qualms about using violence, including bombs.

I want to take the Birmingham commitment to heart.

Witnessing with accountability

Anyone can sign a piece of paper (or in this age, click on “I agree”) signifying a commitment. So why bother? Because nonviolence during a public demonstration isn’t something to take for granted. Public affirmation reinforces personal commitment. Public affirmation is part of accountability to the larger community. It draws a clear line between those peaceful demonstrators and any people willing to resort to violence to impede them.

I have neighbors who take umbrage at the assertion that today’s pro-life movement is part of the civil rights movement that came to flower at that March on Washington in ’63. In reply, I can only avow that life is the fundamental civil and human right. Abortion takes lives, and there are businesses that profit from it. Let peaceful public witness to that continue.

I haven’t endured the physical abuse to which the Birmingham demonstrators were subjected. Their example is awesome even today. They faced police dogs and fire hoses, and still made a commitment to nonviolent public witness and action. The best way for me to honor their memory is to emulate them, even though I’ve faced nothing worse so far than name-calling.

The immoderate “moderates”

Recall that the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham were far from passive. There was urgency in their goal of justice and reconciliation. From a 1963 UPI report on the Birmingham demonstrations: “King reacted strongly, however, to a statement by Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggesting that the all-out integration drive here was ill-timed. ‘I grow weary of those who ask us to slow down,’ King told a reporter. ‘I begin to feel that the moderates in America are our worst enemy.’”

King used the word “moderate” ironically. He knew that civil rights, but not yet was a phony kind of moderation. In the same manner, denying the right to life is hardly a moderate position, even when cloaked in euphemisms like “reproductive justice.”

The events and words of 1963 aren’t frozen in place, devoid of application to our own times. View them not as an archaeologist views a dig, but as a traveler views a map: take this path, not that one. I could do worse than follow the people who signed those cards in Birmingham.

How To Support 40 Days for Life Today

The next 40 Days for Life campaign begins March 6. This peaceful pro-life witness will take place in more than 400 cities, including three in New Hampshire.

Right now, weeks before the campaign begins, you can support it. I don’t mean with donations, although those are always welcome for things like signs and event refreshments. I don’t mean signing up for a vigil hour- at least not yet, because I’ll surely be appealing to you for that very shortly.

What you can do today is help spread the word, particularly within your faith community. 40DFL is informed by Christian beliefs and practice, but all are welcome who share the 40DFL mission. If you…

  • respect the right to life,
  • are committed to peaceful action to make abortion unthinkable, and
  • are either unfamiliar with 40DFL or aren’t sure how to introduce it to pro-life friends and neighbors,

…then what you can do right now is invite someone from your local 40 Days for Life team to meet with you or your group. It could be for a one-on-one chat over coffee. It might be a brief introduction during a church committee meeting, or a 15-minute presentation to a room full of people. Maybe you have a podcast or public-access program; would you like to have a segment about 40DFL?

Just drop us a line. I’m blessed to be working with the Manchester organizing team, but you could also contact teams in Concord or Greenland.

“The 40-day campaign tracks Biblical history, where God used 40-day periods to transform individuals, communities … and the entire world. From Noah in the flood to Moses on the mountain to the disciples after Christ’s resurrection, it is clear that God sees the transformative value of His people accepting and meeting a 40-day challenge.” — from 40daysforlife.com

40 Days for Life Frequently Asked Questions

Whirlwind March for Life in D.C.

Unlike my trip to the March for Life last year, I had only one day off for this year’s March. I managed to get there and back in 21 hours. Don’t try that with kids, colds, or bad weather.

I’m not a fan of the formal pre-March pep rally; I’m already pepped or I wouldn’t be there. Instead, I talked with a group from Canada that comes every year to stand along the parade route to cheer. They decline invitations to walk in the March, as near as I can tell; one of them told me “we’re here to thank you.” I went to the New Wave Feminists meetup outside the shuttered Air and Space Museum (government shutdown in progress), where I heard from two amazing, courageous women whose stories were new to me. I ran into Dr. George Harne of Northeast Catholic College in Warner, N.H., who was with NCC students at the March.

It was fun to see students having a blast with Washington’s modest snow cover. I saw this snowman on the National Mall, propping up a sign from Feminists for Life.

I was determined to get a photo of the March crowd coming up Capitol Hill, which is hard to do from within the crowd – quick turn, hold up the phone, snap a photo and hope for the best – so I figured I’d get out ahead of the March and take a photo from the middle of the road. Nope, said a nice policeman. So the blurry image in this post’s gallery, taken as I teetered on the edge of a curb, was the best I could do. To see the size of the March, I recommend EWTN’s television coverage, along with this time-lapse video from Students for Life.

I ventured into the world of Facebook Live to give an assignment to viewers not at the March: call or tweet or visit or write our federal representatives, who are solidly pro-abortion – the ones from New Hampshire, at any rate. Let them know there’s a March going on; invite them to check it out; let them know that you don’t want your tax dollars being used for abortion or to subsidize abortion providers; and above all, let them know that Roe isn’t “settled.”

It’a an open-ended assignment.