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 is on its way to the Senate.

It’s unclear to me if HB 233 will head to a second committee in the House. I’ll update this post when more information is available.

Header photo by Cottonbro/Pexels.

Committee: thumbs-down to life-issue bills; full House vote soon

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee frowned on the life-issue bills that come before it last week. The full House will meet on Wednesday, February 24 and Thursday, February 25 to vote on the committee’s “Inexpedient to Legislate” (ITL) recommendations.

On three of the bills, the votes were 11-10 on ITL motions, with Republican committee chairman Edward “Ned” Gordon joining the committee’s ten Democrats in the majority.

Usually, overturning a committee report on the House floor is challenging. Most House members don’t have time to research every bill, and so they lean heavily on the brief committee reports printed in the House calendar.

They also lean on two other things: recommendations from party leadership, and messages from constituents. Most of us can’t control the former. You can definitely influence the latter.

Contacting your representatives

Look up your representatives’ names and contact information, and reach out to them with brief, clear, courteous messages before February 24. Anger is counterproductive; long messages won’t be read; clarity reduces confusion.

My own message to my reps on the bills with 11-10 ITL recommendations will be as straightforward as I can make it: reject the Judiciary Committee’s majority reports, and then vote Ought to Pass on HB 233 (born-alive protection), HB 430 (buffer zone repeal), and HB 625 (protecting preborn children after 24 weeks’ gestation). And for crying out loud ask for roll call votes.

Explaining the votes: committee reports

The House Calendar for next week’s session contains the reports on each bill, majority and minority. Here are excerpts, along with a few irrepressible comments from me. The words from the reports are in italics.

HB 233, protection for infants who survive attempted abortions

The majority report recommending Inexpedient to Legislate on HB 233 was written by Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), who took a different tack from her claim on a born-alive bill last year that “there’s no such thing as an abortion up until birth.” This time, she offered a few other reasons for not providing enforceable protection for children surviving attempted abortion. “It provides that legislators, not parents and their physicians, should determine appropriate medical care….Infants with a few moments, hours, or days would be taken out of the arms of their parents, hooked up to machines, and their parents would be denied the right to say how these last moments of a child’s life would be spent. The majority concluded that passage of this bill was not in the best interests of the state or its citizens.”

That last sentence chills me. I devoutly hope that you never have to think about whether your own care needs to be evaluated through the lens of “the best interests of the state.”

Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) wrote a minority report on behalf of the ten committee members who supported the bill. “We ask no more than that ‘medically appropriate and reasonable care’ be provided to every baby born; no matter the circumstances of birth, no matter if the baby is wanted or not….The decision of what is medically appropriate and/ or reasonable remains where it has been, with medical providers and families….The choice is simple but profound: life or death for a helpless child.”

HB 430, buffer zone repeal

Rep. Alexis Simpson (D-Exeter) wrote the “Inexpedient to Legislate” report for HB 430. “The current law allows flexibility for communities to tailor a zone according to local factors and public safety needs.” I can’t let that pass without comment: communities have no authorization under law to set up buffer zones. Managers of abortion facilities do. “…This bill would repeal the law passed in 2014 that authorized flexible, non-arbitrary, ‘buffer zones’ around reproductive health care facilities to provide for patient safety….the current law allowing health care centers to establish buffer zones that suit their local situations should remain in place.”

That “non-arbitrary” bit was a nice touch, as fiction goes. The law delegates the authority to set up a zone to an abortion facility manager, an employee of a private concern, who determines the zone’s location and extent (“up to 25 feet”), and even whether or when a zone is needed. Merriam-Webster offers a definition of “arbitrary“: “depending on individual discretion and not fixed by law.”

Rep. Mark McLean (R-Manchester), for the ten reps dissenting from the ITL report: “…the US Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law upon which this law is based, and the call for a repeal of its New Hampshire counterpart has followed ever since. The minority of the committee expressed the belief that existing criminal threatening laws are adequate to address security concerns at reproductive health care facilities, and noted that no facility has ever implemented the law’s provisions in spite of the urgent need expressed by its supporters.”

HB 625, Fetal Life Protection Act

New Hampshire offers no protection for preborn children at any point in pregnancy. HB 625 would change that by restricting abortion after 24 weeks’ gestational age, with an exception for the life of the mother.

That was too much for the ten Judiciary Democrats and Republican Rep. Gordon. Rep. Marjorie Smith wrote the majority’s ITL report, saying in part: “This bill sets an extremely narrow exception to the prohibition of abortion, excluding emotional, psychological, and other health factors worthy of consideration as determined by a patient and the patient’s doctor. Not even rape or incest would be a permissible exception. Viability varies with each pregnancy. It has no predictive value in utero. It is only after birth that viability might become a relevant measure.”

Rep. Kimberly Rice (R-Hudson) offered the minority’s view. From her report: “This bill prohibits abortions on babies older than 24 weeks who can live outside of the mother’s womb, except when the alternative poses significant risk to the life or health of the mother. This bill implements the compelling state interest in protecting viable babies and minimizes risk to the mother’s health. This is about the values that define us….Testimony showed this bill to be consistent with standards of care for pregnant women who present with very difficult pregnancies. The minority of the committee believes that New Hampshire should never be a haven for those like Kermit Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortionist who heartlessly snipped the spinal cords of ‘accidentally’ born babies. We are proud to support legislation that reflects our values and protects the sanctity of human life. The minority stands in the gap, defending the most defenseless, and giving voice to the voiceless. New Hampshire should join the many states with post-viability bans by adopting this bill.”

Related bills

What about related bills heard last week?

HB 622, protecting nascent human life as a reasonable and valid state interest, was retained in committee and will not go before the House until 2022. Watch for a committee work session next fall.

HB 596, with its single sponsor, addressed public funding of abortion. The committee report explains the 20-1 ITL vote: “It became clear at the hearing that HB 434 had much greater support and was the preferred alternative. While many committee members support the intent of this bill, it did not make sense to have the two bills competing with each other.” As for that “preferred alternative,” HB 434 suffered one of those 11-10 ITL votes. It is not listed on the House calendar for February 24-25.

Header image: Cottonbro/Pexels.

On Pain, Viability, and Votes

On the agenda this week: two bills addressing mid- and late-term abortions. One bill is federal, and it fell short on a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate. The other bill is getting its hearing this week (January 31, 10:00 a.m.) before a New Hampshire House committee, a year after a similar bill was tabled in the House.

The opposition by abortion advocates is predictable, as is the split among pro-lifers.

Federal: the “Pain-Capable” Bill

The U.S. Senate failed this week to advance a so-called “Pain-Capable” bill, which would have limited abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, the point at which preborn children can feel pain. As if the very title of the bill weren’t enough to calm fears that it might actually confer personhood on anyone (it was written to be merely a limitation on abortion), the bill contained exceptions for children conceived through rape and incest.

The point of those exceptions is anyone’s guess. They provided no tactical advantage of which I’m aware, and they infuriated rape survivors and their children.

We were treated to the disedifying spectacle of the Democratic Senate leader high-fiving a colleague after the vote. They weren’t celebrating the defeat of an exceptions bill. Way to go, guys. Team Gosnell prevails again.

Here are two different views of the Pain-Capable Bill, offered by women whose experiences give them a perspective that I’m sure most Senators lack. These are taken from public posts on social media.

Darlene Pawlik at TheDarlingPrincess.com, “The Law is a Teacher” (excerpt):

This bill teaches that children over 20 weeks gestation deserve protection from the horrific pain of having arms and legs torn off or their heads and chests crushed at the hands of abortionists. It further teaches that, a similar child who’s unfortunate enough to be the second victim of rape does not deserve to be protected form that same excruciating death.

…It is very important to note that perhaps, the one person, the mom, who could redeem the situation would be left with the guilt of committing an atrocity against another innocent victim. This could set her up for post traumatic stress responses for the rest of her life.

…I was not only conceived by a violent rape, but my first child was born as a result of sex trafficking. I am the target of this kind of legislation….

Of course, I’ll ask you to remove the exceptions. These exceptions undermine to premise of the bill. They are discriminatory and unjust. No child should receive the death sentence for the crime of their father.

Catherine Adair on Facebook:

I find it really hard to talk about the defeat of the 20-week abortion bill by Senate Democrats. Every time I think about it, I am right back in the abortion clinic, staring at a jar filled with the severed arms and legs of a baby who just moments before had been ripped apart in [its] mother’s womb. I am right back to that place where I told mothers that the doctor was going to “gently extract the contents of the uterus.” Women in their 23rd week of pregnancy were lied to and told it was a simple “procedure.”

Nobody told them that they and their baby would be in agony as the doctor used forceps and sharp instruments to dismember their child, pulling and tugging until the baby was ripped apart and he could pull the body out, piece by piece.

…To see Senate Democrats high-fiving each other on the Senate floor truly left me sickened….What kind of a society allows such barbaric killing? What kind of a society allows late-term abortion to be used as a way to generate profits for a body parts selling industry? Have people lost all sense of their humanity?

Even writing this I can smell the sick, horrifying smell of the abortion procedure room. It is something that will never leave me. I want to run and hide and pretend like this barbarism isn’t happening. I truly can’t bear the horror. But I have to say something, if only in memory of the thousands of babies whose blood I have on my hands.

Dear God, I implore you to awaken those who are blind, those who helped to defeat this bill, and those who voted against it. Please open their eyes. Please give them back their humanity. Please have mercy on us.

In New Hampshire: the Viable Fetus Protection Act

Rep. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford) is leading a team of sponsors on HB 1680, to restrict abortions after viability. Restrict, not ban: it has exceptions (though none for rape and incest). Far from undermining Roe, it is consistent with Roe’s holding that the state may assert an interest in prenatal life in the latter stages of pregnancy. New Hampshire is a place of abortion extremism, where unregulated providers can do the deed anytime until the preborn child comes to term. HB 1680 is an attempt to change that, in a modest way.

The bill does not pretend to push against any constitutional limits. It doesn’t pretend to be about personhood. It is a straightforward bid “to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of viable unborn fetuses.” It even leaves the determination of viability to the “treating physician,” meaning the abortion provider.

I support the bill as a step toward loosening the grip of abortion absolutists on my state’s public policy, just as I supported Murphy’s HB 578 last year.

New Hampshire Right to Life takes a different view.

This bill prohibits post-viability abortions (which NHRTL supports) but it also includes exceptions for the [unrestrained] health of the mother; for Twin To Twin Transfer (TTS) syndrome; and for Fetal anomalies incompatible with life. NHRTL cannot support enacting law that explicitly excludes any class of humans from legal protection. [brackets and parentheses in original]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that if – if – HB 1680 is defeated or derailed, abortion advocates will be high-fiving in Reps Hall just as they did in the U.S. Capitol the other day. And once again, they won’t be high-fiving over the defeat of “exceptions.”

 

N.H. House rejects post-viability limit on abortion

All nine months: that’s how far into pregnancy abortion is legal in New Hampshire. Viable, non-viable, with or without “anomalies”: all irrelevant. What’s more, any abortion-minded woman in New Hampshire is entitled to a dead baby, not merely a terminated pregnancy.

Rep. Keith Murphy and ten co-sponsors brought forward HB 578 in an effort to push back against that bit of barbarity. Murphy took Justice Blackmun at his word as expressed in Roe v. Wade: the state may assert an interest in the preborn child once that child is viable.

The New Hampshire House had a chance to stand with Murphy. The House refused.


Murphy’s clean bill, the one he introduced, was weakened in committee. The clean bill never came up today. The question before the House was whether to adopt the committee amendment, which while inferior to the original bill, kept alive (you’ll pardon the expression) the idea that aborting children at eight or nine months’ gestation is something to be more-or-less avoided.

The amendment was defeated , 170-189.  After that, the bill itself was swiftly tabled.

Somewhere, Kermit Gosnell is smiling. If his life sentence is ever somehow shortened, he can come set up shop in New Hampshire. Among the Pennsylvania laws he violated was one barring abortion beyond a certain point in pregnancy. In New Hampshire, there’s no such limit to ignore.

Both Murphy’s bill and the committee amendment left the determination of viability to the abortionist. That’s quite a concession.

Not enough for the abortion advocates, though. I sat in the gallery today and listened to one of them, Rep. Ebel of New London, condemn both the underlying bill and the proposed amendment, saying they “roll back existing rights” and would interfere with “private medical decisions.”

Murphy’s bill called for a second doctor to be present at the abortion of a viable fetus so that if such a fetus were to survive the attempted abortion, the little one could be cared for, provided that doing so would not endanger the life of the mother. The committee amendment dispensed with that provision, and it still didn’t pass.

That would have “roll[ed] back existing rights”…the right to a dead child, I guess, not merely a terminated pregnancy.

Rep. Claire Rouillard, whose name was on the committee amendment, calmly yet forcefully argued for its adoption. She should give lessons in legislative deportment. Her amendment would have okayed post-viability abortion for “anomalies incompatible with life,” among several other reasons.

Would an abortionist declare a child with “anomalies incompatible with life” to be viable in the first place? Absurd, but it apparently made sense to a majority of people on the Judiciary Committee, which gives me pause. Someone in there thought the bill stood a better chance of passage with the amendment.

Bit of a miscalculation, that.


I love my state deeply. At the same time – and probably because I love my state – I’m ashamed that we’re one of seven states where Kermit Gosnell would feel right at home.

I hope Rep. Murphy will forgive me for quoting extensively from a public Facebook post he made following the tabling of his bill. He is disheartened. (I sympathize.) He started his post by naming the thirty or so Republicans, plus one Libertarian, who joined Democrats in opposing the amendment.

In a later comment on his post, he acknowledged that two Democrats bucked their colleagues on this one: Raymond Gagnon and Jean Jeudy. Good for them.

Murphy acknowledged that a few of those GOP reps might have opposed the amendment because it weakened the original, but he knows better than to give that much credit to all of them.

Most simply opposed the state protecting the lives of unborn children at any moment prior to birth, even when those children could survive outside the womb.

[Update: Rep. Murphy revised his post within four days to indicate five Republicans who voted against the amendment but supported the underlying bill. Those reps are Anne Copp, David Danielson, Jess Edwards, Robert L’Heureux, and Kurt Wuelper.]

Murphy has a touching faith in the GOP platform, which supports the right to life even if some Republican officeholders don’t. And he has something to say to pro-life activists, even if it makes them indignant.

I will not sponsor this bill again until and unless there is both a solid majority of real Republicans who will support it and a commitment by the pro-life community to drum up support and educate the public about the fact that late term abortions are legal in our state. Ultimately those Republicans who find nothing wrong with abortions at 34 weeks need to be defeated in their next primary and replaced with people true to our platform.

…I appreciate the work that several reps put into the bill, and those of you that did try to get emails out to the representatives about the issue….This was the bill I cared about most this year. It was the most consequential bill I filed, and I worked for it. I’m pretty disappointed with the outcome; I truly believe lives hung in the balance and because of the above [GOP] representatives those lives are lost.

Other representatives may yet pick up the banner this year, if parliamentary procedure permits. We shall see. The man who moved to table the bill following rejection of the amendment was Rep. Joe Hagan, chairman of Judiciary, who in very hasty remarks indicated that he thought the bill was salvageable.

Perhaps some of the 280 reps who voted to table the bill agreed with him. Others were probably whistling “Another One Bites the Dust” under their breath.