Buffer zone repeal, 2019: hearing Jan. 9

Nine New Hampshire state representatives led by Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) are sponsoring HB 124, a bill to repeal the state’s so-called “buffer zone” law. That law is an anti-First-Amendment measure targeting peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. The public hearing on HB 124 is scheduled for Wednesday, January 9, in the House Judiciary Committee at 1:00 p.m. in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation to the full House regarding the bill on January 15.

Options for registering your opinion on the bill:

  • Attend the hearing. At that time you may deliver your testimony (speaking) to the committee, deliver written testimony with or without speaking, or simply sign the bill’s “blue sheet” (which will be available near the door of the committee room) to check off a box indicating support for the bill.
  • Email the committee. The Judiciary Committee page on the House web site does not currently provide a committee address, but if you email chief sponsor Rep. Wuelper at kurt.wuelper@leg.state.nh.us, he can forward your message to his colleagues. Subject line: YES on HB 124.

New Hampshire’s buffer zone law was passed in 2014, but has never been used. It authorizes abortion facility managers to determine where and when peaceful pro-life witnesses may occupy public property near abortion facilities. Maggie Hassan, then serving as Governor, signed the law despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had only days before ruled a similar Massachusetts law to be unconstitutional (McCullen v. Coakley).

For background, you can consult the dedicated page compiling this blog’s reports on the buffer zone issue.


Text of HB 124 as introduced:

AN ACT repealing the law relative to the buffer zones to reproductive health care facilities.

1. Statement of Findings and Purpose.
I. The general court hereby finds that:

(a) The exercise of a person’s right to free speech is a First Amendment activity, the protection of which is paramount.

(b) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) would infringe on the free speech rights of innocent people.

(c) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81), if implemented would be subject to immediate constitutional challenge.

(d) RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 (2014, 81) has served no public purpose.

II. Therefore, the general court hereby repeals RSA 132:37 through RSA 132:40 because if left as law, this statute will cause the state of New Hampshire to expend considerable sums defending a law which the United States Supreme Court may find unconstitutional and which has served no public purpose.

2 Repeal. RSA 132:37-132:40, relative to access to reproductive health care facilities, are repealed.

3 Effective Date. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

 

See You In Dover N.H., November 14

I’m looking forward to speaking at a workshop at St. Joseph Church in Dover on November 14 at 6:30 p.m., and I hope to see Seacoast readers there! Rep. Kurt Wuelper will be the featured speaker on Effective Communication with Legislators. I’ll talk about how to turn your social media engagement into a pro-life powerhouse. Our hosts are the Catholic Citizenship Committee of the Parish of the Assumption and the Seacoast Pro-Life Network.

NH committee publishes reports on Born-Alive & dismemberment abortion bills; House to vote next week

The New Hampshire House calendar for the February 10 session has just been released, with reports on bills including HB 1627, the Born-Alive Infant Protection bill, and HB 1560, a bill to ban the dismemberment method of abortion.

Here are the House Judiciary Committee reports on the bills. For most legislators, this is the only information they will see before the vote. Voters who support these bills should contact their representatives and ask them to overturn the “inexpedient to legislate” committee reports.


HB 1560-FN, relative to abortion procedures. MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE (committee vote: 9-7). MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.

Rep. Linda Kenison for the Majority of Judiciary. This bill seeks to add a new section to New Hampshire RSA 132 (Protection for Maternity and Infancy) which would prohibit the most common method of second trimester pre-viability abortion to the ten percent (10%) of women who make a difficult decision to terminate their pregnancy. The medical term for this safe procedure is called non-intact D&E (Dilation and Evacuation). Across the country, this procedure is performed on the ten percent of women, ninety-five percent (95%) of the time. Other jurisdictions, as recently as January 22, 2016, have held nearly identical statutory language which banned this very type of D&E, likely unconstitutional. Nauser v. Kansas, Court of Appeals of the State of Kansas (2016). The appellate court refused to overrule the lower court’s injunction which kept the law from taking effect, reasoning that the statute violated the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Similarly, the United States Supreme Court determined this to be a safe alternative to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (a federal statute regulating abortion procedures.) Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 US 127 (2007). The Gonzales court also recognized long-standing law which prohibits an undue interference for the State on a woman’s right to terminate their pregnancy prior to viability. Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973). This bill, if passed, will likely force New Hampshire into costly and unnecessary litigation. In addition to the constitutional issues, the bill’s language is discriminatory and disregards the individual rights of women New Hampshire citizens. The bill allows a court to determine whether the identity of the women should be disclosed in “every civil criminal, or administrative proceeding,” regardless of her consent to such disclosure. It further allows only a “married” father of the unborn to bring an action for civil damages, yet does not provide the right to an unmarried father or same-sex spouse. This bill also criminalizes health care providers for practicing medicine in a manner they determine is medically sound and is in the best interest of their patients. This bill imposes criminal penalties, including a class A felony for physicians and other medical providers who perform this procedure. We are trusted with the responsibility to pass laws for all the citizens of New Hampshire. This bill, as worded, falls short of our responsibility and violates the laws of the State of New Hampshire and United States Constitution.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Minority of Judiciary. The minority believes the dismemberment abortion procedure known as Dilation and Evacuation [D&E] is so monstrous it should be illegal. No baby should ever be subjected to being physically torn limb-from-limb, which is precisely what the D&E does. Our Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual” punishment for crimes. We apply this principle even to those who have committed crimes so serious they have received the death penalty. We believe the pre-born child, having committed no crime, deserves similar mercy. Even more, our State should do all it can to protect every baby from such a torturous procedure. We believe the Supreme Court would follow the same logic it used to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion ban and uphold the D&E ban.

HB 1627-FN, relative to the protection of infants born alive. MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE (committee vote: 9-7). MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.

Rep. Paul Berch for the Majority of Judiciary. There are existing laws, both Federal and State, that extend protections to infants born alive. This bill seeks to go beyond these laws to allow criminal prosecutions of doctors who are believed to have exceeded vague concepts relating to evidence of life, medically necessary or reasonable care, without defining these terms. A bipartisan majority of the committee felt this bill impermissibly interferes with medical professionals trying to provide the best medical care that they can. This legislation would require doctors to employ extraordinary resuscitation measures for pre-viable fetuses who are born as a result of early (pre-term) labor or abortion – even where there is no chance of viability or ultimate survival. The requirements of this bill deviate from the medical standard of care and interfere with the ability of physicians to work during a time of pregnancy loss or termination. New Hampshire currently has some of the lowest abortion rates and the best maternal health outcomes in the country, yet we heard testimony that this legislation would threaten the state’s top neonatologists and fetal medicine specialists with prosecution and subject doctors and families to an invasive level of government interference.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Minority of Judiciary. The minority believes that every baby born alive deserves nourishment and “medically appropriate and reasonable” care, even if that baby is born alive accidentally after an abortion procedure. Further, it is the role of the Legislature to define crimes and establish penalties for crimes. This bill is similar to the Federal Born Alive Protection Act and requires any such baby receive such care and makes failure to provide that care a crime. With criminal cases from other states documenting that hundreds of these babies have been killed (or allowed to die with no care given), we believe our state needs to clearly identify such wanton disregard for living babies a serious crime.

Pro-life caucus meets in Concord

There was a small announcement in this week’s New Hampshire House calendar: prolife caucus initial meeting

Who knew what to expect? I went to Concord to see for myself to see if this effort could get off the ground.

Kurt Wuelper, shown here at 2013's NH March for Life (Ellen Kolb photo)
Rep. Kurt Wuelper, shown here at 2013’s NH March for Life (Ellen Kolb photo)

I needn’t have worried. After a late start due an earlier meeting running longer than expected, the double-sized hearing room began to fill up. Rep. Kathy Souza of Manchester and Rep. Kurt Wuelper of Strafford welcomed colleagues as they arrived. Representatives could pick up Precious Feet pins and March for Life flyers on the way to their seats. The atmosphere was upbeat and collegial.

Rep. Kathleen Souza (photo courtesy nhcornerstone.org)
Rep. Kathleen Souza (photo courtesy nhcornerstone.org)

So yes, there is a pro-life caucus in the New Hampshire House. It’s a bipartisan group. Seven of New Hampshire’s ten counties were represented at this morning’s meeting. Experienced legislators are participating along with first-termers.

Of the many familiar faces in the room – including two legislators from my home town – I was particularly gratified to see Rep. Sue DeLemus of Rochester. She served as a state rep in 2011-12, testifying powerfully on life-issue bills as a post-abortive woman. After losing her seat in 2012, she regained it last November. She never, never puts up with the word “choice” when the speaker means “abortion.” During a pro-life rally in the 2014 campaign, she told voters “I have a very personal connection with the right to life, because I had an abortion. There is no one in this House who can testify the way I can.”

Sue DeLemus, former state representative running to represent Rochester once again: "I have a very personal connection with the right to life, because I had an abortion. I fight like mad every single bill that's against life that comes through this House. There is no one in this House who can testify the way I can."
Rep. Sue DeLemus (Ellen Kolb photo)

Before the meeting began, I asked Rep. Souza if House leadership had said anything about dealing with social issues. “The message that’s going out is ‘these are the issues,’ and social issues are not on the list. We’re not getting the message that we’re not doing them, but we’re not getting the message that we are doing them, either.”

“There are a lot of good [life-issue] bills in,” she continued. “We want everyone to know that these bills are out there.” A partial list: buffer zone repeal, abortion statistics, fetal homicide (two versions, yet to be reconciled), a ban on post-viability abortions.

(My own fearless forecast: when the post-viability bill comes up, abortion advocates will make two simultaneous and contradictory claims: “no such abortions are done in New Hampshire” and “this bill endangers New Hampshire women’s health.” You heard it here first.)

“We have to acknowledge the environment we’re in,” said Rep. Wuelper. That environment includes not only a leadership agenda from which the life issues are absent but also a governor so adamantly pro-abortion that she signed a buffer zone law days after the U.S. Supreme Court found a nearly-identical law unconstitutional.

As of this week, that environment also includes a group of reps standing together to say they’re not waiting to be given permission to work towards good public policy on the life issues.

Rep. Souza sees promise in an abortion statistics bill, given the recommendations of a 2014 study committee. “[Right now] we don’t know to whom [abortions] are happening, where they’re happening, or why they’re happening. Is [a certain county] having a disproportionate number of abortions? Where do we need to put pregnancy care centers?”

“I think that one of the things that’s been lacking in the pro-life movement is organization,” said Rep. Wuelper. “Here, we can strategize and work together to advance the cause of life. That’s what this is all about.”

I wish these legislators well. They’re off to a good start.

[Original post updated 9:00 a.m.]