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.


 

Encore: Gosnell taught us nothing

This is an encore post from two years ago today, May 14, 2013. Kermit Gosnell had just been convicted of three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter committed in the course of his work as an abortionist. What did we learn from that? Today, two years after I wrote this post, New Hampshire law has not budged from what I describe here. 

hashtag-gosnell (1024x355) (800x277)Where is New Hampshire, now that the odious Dr. Gosnell awaits sentencing in Pennsylvania? In the dark, mostly. Legislators can change this, although some mighty citizen action might be needed to get the ball rolling. We don’t know how many women choose abortion in New Hampshire. (The Guttmacher/CDC stats are atrocious substitutes for data, relying as they do on voluntary reporting by a limited number of abortion providers.) We don’t know why they choose abortion. We don’t know how many abortions are “early” or “late-term.” We don’t know what the medical protocols are for born-alive babies after attempted abortion. We have no clue whatsoever what is the rate of post-abortion complications for women. We don’t know who’s doing abortions. There is no restriction on who may perform abortion. (None.) We are assured at public hearings that abortion facilities are “licensed,” whatever that means, without being held to the same standards as any other outpatient-surgery facility.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s negligence on the part of policymakers and public health officials. Time for transparency and serious oversight of the abortion industry. Even a defender of Roe should be able to see that.

Gosnell was operating legally. Don’t overlook that while you’re plowing through the public statements by PP and NARAL since yesterday’s conviction. We can all be appalled about what Gosnell did, and we can all be outraged by the way he and his staff treated women, and we can be outraged by the snipping of born-alive-babies’ necks (although that particular outrage was not expressed universally yesterday). Through it all, remember: he was operating legally, according to the state of Pennsylvania. His butchery was discovered by accident. Despite state policies and abortion regulations, no Pennsylvania official kept Gosnell in line because no Pennsylvania official wanted to look.

What do you want to bet that if Gosnell HAD been inspected, fellow abortion providers would have cried “intimidation!” at the first peep from the inspectors?

And if only Gosnell hadn’t been such a ghoul about keeping babies’ corpses and body parts, he would very likely have escaped prosecution on the premeditated-murder charges.  If the only evidence of the murder of children had been testimony by Gosnell’s staff, his attorneys would have had a field day impeaching those witnesses. The attorneys tried that anyway, even with the sickening physical evidence.

Which brings me to the sobering thought: how many children survive attempted abortion and are born alive? We don’t know. What’s the medical protocol for dealing with “the dreaded complication” of a live birth? It may vary from one facility to another. A law on mandatory statistics, even a law with teeth, may be unable to get at that. The medical profession might have too great a stake in Roe to want those children out in the open. In Gosnell’s case, only when outsiders got a look at the corpses did the story come out. That was an off-chance.

I have already seen in some of the Gosnell coverage that some news outlets refer to the dead babies as “fetuses,” despite the fact that they had emerged from the mothers’ bodies. Three convictions for premeditated murder might not settle the issue. This question comes up again and again as I cover the right to life: does getting an abortion entitle a woman to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? No, this is not a matter between “a woman, her family, and her doctor,” as the saying goes – at least I don’t think it is. Will an abortion provider even have to note that a baby was born alive, if the mother is undergoing an abortion? Not unless the “protocols” say so.  After all, if the fetus isn’t “born,” it’s not a person, and homicide laws would not apply. Was that Gosnell’s rationalization for snipping the infants’ spinal cords?

This wouldn’t be the first time Roe made a hash of science. Still think pregnancy begins at conception? Union of sperm and egg? How very seventies of you. Implantation: that’s the ticket. Presto: “emergency contraception” has been declared non-abortive, along with anything else that inhibits implantation. Justice Blackmun would be proud. He was  afraid when he wrote Roe that medical science might declare when life begins, thus undermining the whole “trimester” framework. Not to worry. Medical science has its finger to the political winds.

The “providers” are not likely to come forward about their own acts, if they are “terminating” abortion survivors. It will be left to the witnesses, allied health professionals, to testify to what they see.

Medical protocols will not come to light readily. Ask New Hampshire Right to Life what it takes to get Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to turn over its medical operations manual. (More about that another time.)

Don’t think that serious regulation will come easily. NARAL, PP, and their apologists blame pro-lifers for Gosnell. Seriously. Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations are to blame, they say.

Really?

Did a 24-hour waiting period, required under Pennsylvania law, kill Karnamaya Mongar? No. Kermit Gosnell did. The drug overdose that killed her was not forced on her by any 24-hour wait. “Involuntary manslaughter,” said the jury. Her family is taking civil action against Gosnell. Good luck to them.

Did a ban on abortions post-24-weeks “force” women to Gosnell? No. By the way, Gosnell operated with the knowledge of other abortion providers in the area, including PP of Southeastern Pennsylvania. If anyone from that PP office had concerns about Gosnell doing late-term work, she didn’t advise anyone at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Hmmm.

Did Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations cause all the carnage? No. There is plenty of blame to go around, but not to the people who fought for the regulations, even if they only exist on paper as abortion providers would prefer. Republican former Governor Tom Ridge discontinued regular inspections of abortion facilities. Workers at Gosnell‘s facility kept quiet for years. Medical providers who found themselves taking care of women harmed at the Gosnell facility did not make enough of a fuss for health authorities to take notice.

Gosnell’s crimes did not consist principally in the filth of his office. If he had kept a clean place, the snipped babies would still be dead. We’d just be less likely to know about them. A tidy facility wouldn’t have helped Karnamaya Mongar survive a drug overdose. Declaring Gosnell an outlier, as abortion advocates have done, means nothing if it is only an admonition to maintain good housekeeping.

So much room for improvement, for the women, for their children. Until New Hampshire moves past housekeeping concerns and deals with abortion itself, Gosnell has taught us nothing.

A reporter who did her job

hashtag-gosnell (1024x355) (800x277)I’m indebted to Karen Testerman and TheGosnellMovie.com for reminding me of this anniversary: two years ago today, journalist Kirsten Powers called out her professional colleagues for their silence about the crimes of Kermit Gosnell. She effectively shamed major news organizations into covering the trial of an abortionist from whose activities they would have preferred to avert their gaze.

See her groundbreaking article from USA Today, 4/11/13. It was all the more effective coming from a woman not associated with the pro-life movement. Gosnell snipped the spines of children who survived attempts at late-term abortion. He ran a facility that left some women injured or worse. In Powers’ own words, “This is not about being ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life.’ It’s about basic human rights.”

Abortion advocates went into damage-control mode as soon as Powers put the spotlight on Gosnell’s trial. A NARAL Pro-Choice America “Blog for Choice” post was particularly fascinating in a watching-a-train-wreck sort of way, with the writer claiming, “The horrific conditions in Gosnell’s clinic are an example of what happens to women and our basic dignity when abortion isn’t available through safe and legal providers.” I wrote a post of my own in response, “NARAL blames pro-lifers for Gosnell”, pointing out that Gosnell was operating legally, and he was “safe” as far as the state of Pennsylvania was concerned.

Kermit Gosnell wound up in jail for his crimes, including his role in the death of Karnamaya Mongar. (At last report, he was unrepentant.) Never forget what he did – and never forget what Kirsten Powers did.