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.
Abortion’s legal in New Hampshire throughout pregnancy – early-term, late-term, any-term. Representative Keith Murphy and six co-sponsors have introduced HB 595, a bill to restrict abortion after 21 weeks + 5 days. The bills statement of findings is brief: “Children have been born as early as 21 weeks and 5 days gestation and lived healthy, fulfilling lives; it is the purpose of the state of New Hampshire to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of viable unborn children.” The sponsors might have added that maternal mortality increases with gestational age.
I say God bless the sponsors. They knew they were venturing into tough territory. They sallied forth anyway.
The Judiciary Committee hearing turned up objections: the bill’s “unconstitutional” and could result in litigation against the state (where were those voices when the buffer zone law was being debated?); it’s medically debatable; and it’s tricky to pin down that 21-weeks-5-days point.
Fear not; the Concord legislative sausage-making machine is in good working order. The committee majority proposed an amendment to the bill: the “Viable Fetus Protection Act,” supposedly intended to restrict post-viability abortions without specifying a time in pregnancy.The crowning achievement of their amendment is this: “viability” means “the state of fetal development when the life of the fetus may be continued indefinitely outside the womb naturally” – but then, “the determination of viability and the decision to terminate a pregnancy shall be solely that of the pregnant woman in consultation with her physician.”
Wow. Even Justice Blackmun didn’t go there. In fact, in Roe v. Wade, the Blackmun majority agreed to define viability as “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” None of this artificial-aid stuff for the majority of the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee. The viability bill is looking extremely unviable.
The committee amendment defines viability so that some kids with disabilities could never meet the standard, and then it says the mother is the one who decides what viability is anyway. The “consultation with her physician” is a droll, meaningless and unenforceable idea. For good measure, the bill includes an exception “to remove a fetus with severe anomalies incompatible with life.” That refers to disabled preborn children who haven’t died on their own earlier in pregnancy. Sometimes these things need to be helped along, I guess.
That amendment attracted twelve votes in committee. There were seven votes for killing the bill altogether. Will the floor debate bring a proposal to restore the original language? Whatever the flaws in the bill as introduced, at least it didn’t define viability and then throw out the definition three lines later. [Note: on March 12, the House tabled the bill.]
Whatever its fate, HB 595 will not be the last word on late-term abortion in New Hampshire. A conversation’s been started, and no one can shut it down.
January 22 was supposed to bring a vote on a federal bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Didn’t happen. Republican women who were elected with the help of pro-life donors decided to block the bill, demanding that a provision be removed that would have required a rape survivor seeking a late-term abortion to report the rape to law enforcement. House Speaker John Boehner withdrew the bill to avoid a defeat on the floor. (Consolation prize: a bill to block taxpayer funding of abortions. More on that another day.)
There’s plenty of angst to go around. The women who derailed the bill … their colleagues who were terribly afraid of disagreeing with these women on a “women’s issue” (tell that to the aborted males) … the people who inserted a rape-and-incest exception … the people who opposed the bill altogether because it wasn’t pro-life enough … the people who hated the bill because it would have blocked any abortions at all …
I’m with David Harsanyi, who said “Evidently, Republicans don’t feel competent enough to make a case against infanticide.” Yes, I wanted this bill to pass. It was a misshapen thing, but it should have passed. I reject the assertion that it would have made pre-20-week abortions or rape-and-incest abortions acceptable. It was Justice Blackmun and his brethren who made those abortions legal.
Remember who made late-term abortion a matter of debate in Washington in 2013? Kermit Gosnell. In the wake of his atrocities, Congress took its first crack at a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Democrats blocked it. Last week, Republicans blocked it. Different reasons, same outcome: no coherent defense of any preborn child, never mind all of them.
A reader recently reminded me of something I wrote in June of 2013. Then-Speaker Pelosi was nearly incoherent when asked about the difference between legal late-term abortion and the murder of a 23-week baby who survived an attempted abortion. (There is no difference, of course, but as an abortion advocate in good standing, Pelosi couldn’t quite say that.) I’m beginning to think the Republican women who blocked the Pain-Capable bill couldn’t do much better. Their words would be different, certainly, but the result would be the same.
The New Hampshire House held a committee hearing on a personhood bill today. Lots of testimony in favor, lots of skeptical questions from the committee members. No vote yet. Meanwhile, down in Washington, a big-deal pro-life vote planned to coincide with the national March for Life morphed into something else. I’m still trying to sort it out. There was something in here to please and offend just about everyone.
In Washington, hundreds of thousands march for life
While legislators toiled in Concord and the nation’s capitol, the March for Life went on in Washington. Tuning in to some of the coverage on EWTN was a fair antidote to any legislative overload. I’m glad one network considers an annual civil rights march with hundreds of thousands of people worth covering in depth. If you mutter “well, of course…it’s a Catholic network”, I’m glad anyway. Shame on any “news” organization that skimps on March for Life coverage in favor of in-depth reporting on deflated footballs.
Warning: exceptions alert
I support the Hyde Amendment, which has been attached to every federal HHS appropriation for a generation. The Amendment is meant to keep federal funds from paying for most abortions. I support it even though it has a rape-&-incest exception. I don’t see that as “okaying” such abortions.
I support parental notification legislation, even though it allows abortions if parents or a judge approve them.
I support a ban on partial-birth abortions, even though such laws leave every other type of abortion legal.
You get the idea. Human life exists from the moment of conception and is to be protected. Not every law touching on the life issues protects every human being. That doesn’t mean I want to throw out Hyde, parental notification, and so on.
This becomes relevant as we look at the mess that the House made out of a decent bill over the past few days.
A federal 20-week ban is on hold
The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act, as originally written and introduced in Congress, would have made abortions illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the grounds that babies can feel pain at that point.
You and I are human whether we can feel pain or not. I say that without fear of serious argument. I favored the bill, though, because it was a good step. A consensus point: most Americans find late-term abortions at least distasteful. The Republicans were supposedly going to get this passed: it had passed the House once before, only to come up against an obstinately pro-abortion Democratic Senate. The 2014 election brought a Republican Senate to power. A vote was scheduled for January 22, to coincide with the march in Washington. So – on with the 20-week ban. Right?
No. An exception for rape & incest abortions was added to the bill. Uh-oh. No-exceptions members of Congress objected, as did national groups like Save the 1. Then a provision was added that a rape survivor wanting a post-20-week abortion couldn’t have one unless the rape was first reported to law enforcement. I heard from an authoritative source yesterday what was confirmed in news coverage today: every woman in the GOP conference in the House, save one, said they’d abandon the bill unless the latter provision were removed. Few Republican men want to be cast as being unsympathetic to women, so this caused great consternation in the party conference. The upshot: Speaker Boehner pulled the bill from the calendar.
He did so despite the fact that the bill with its exceptions and its rape-reporting language was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List (which expected its endorsed candidates to support it; that was a miscalculation), the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and the organizers of the national March for Life.
The number of emails from these groups over the past 48 hours became positively oppressive. More oppressive still was the absence of any mention of the bill’s exceptions.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina explained why she led the charge to derail the bill: “I think we’re all just going through some growing pains,” and she didn’t want the GOP to sound “harsh” to women and young people. Help yourself to her comments here. So much for being endorsed by pro-life groups.
Would I have cut off my support for my Congressman had he voted for the exceptions-laden bill? No, in view of his overall record (and in view of the rabid pro-abortion beliefs of the woman he replaced). But let’s not pretend the exceptions weren’t there.
The bill will be brought up at a later date. What condition it will arrive in is anybody’s guess.
A postscript: conspicuously absent from the list of organizations promoting the bill was Americans United for Life. AUL’s Women’s Protection Project includes model legislation restricting late-term abortions because of the sharply increased risk they pose to a pregnant woman. The Project is a state-by-state endeavor.
The consolation prize: the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which passed 242-179, was identical to a bill that cleared the Republican-run House last year but died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate. Only three Democrats supported the measure, with Rep. Richard Hanna of Indiana the lone Republican to reject it. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., would make it illegal for individuals to use the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies to buy plans that cover abortion services through the new health exchanges. Many states have already passed legislation limiting abortion coverage in exchange plans, but the measure the House approved would apply nationwide and possibly discourage insurers on the exchanges from offering abortion coverage at all.
Democrats are calling it an assault on women’s health, but they always call taxpayer divestiture from the abortion industry an assault on women’s health.
The bill leaves untouched the Affordable Care Act’s provision that suppression of women’s fertility is such a public health imperative that contraception (including abortion-inducing drugs and devices) must be covered as “preventive care,” paid for by all of us. Still, am I pleased about today’s no-funding bill, as far as it goes? Yes, as far as it goes. Call me an incrementalist.
Meanwhile in Concord, personhood gets a hearing
Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) and nine co-sponsors brought the All People Created Equal Act to the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee today. The Act, HB 194, is simply – or complexly – a personhood bill.
Committee chairman Rep. Robert Rowe (R-Amherst) was prepared. He booked a double-sized room and did not put anything else on the committee calendar for the day. I stayed for only an hour and a half. Judging from the number of people signing in on the bill, I suspect the festivities went well into the afternoon.
A pink-t-shirt brigade of Planned Parenthood supporters, nine in all, occupied seats a front corner of the public area. As I’ve noticed at other events, I’ve never seen a faded PP shirt. Are they EVER worn more than once?
From perspectives scientific, religious, and moral, supporters of the bill endorsed the idea that public policy should acknowledge that the offspring of human beings should be recognized as persons from the moment of conception. Unique DNA, undoubtedly human, genetically distinct from the mother: what’s to argue?
Eight state representatives testified to this. More reps signed in but were unable to testify in person; hearings were going on throughout the building on a multitude of other bills. Representatives of New Hampshire Right to Life were there. I recognized several pro-lifers who took time off work or lined up babysitters so they could support the bill in person.
And in the other corner, so to speak: Planned Parenthood and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union had testified against the bill by the time I left. “A frontal attack on access to abortion,” said PP. “Giving legal rights to fertilized eggs would affect many other laws….This doesn’t start a dialogue. This would change the law without a dialogue,” said NHCLU.
Questions from the committee: wouldn’t this stop stem-cell research? (Not adult stem cells.) Wouldn’t this stop in vitro fertilizations? Would this mean “leftover” embryos couldn’t be destroyed? Would the murder of a pregnant woman count as a double homicide? (Tune in when fetal homicide gets a hearing.) If doctors get to decide when life ends, shouldn’t they be able to decide when life begins? (That one came from Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, who has much more faith in the medical profession than I.) If Republican principles support limited government, doesn’t this expand government? (That’s another one from Mr. Sylvia, who knows that personhood is also part of the NHGOP platform.)
The unspoken questions I heard all morning: No exceptions? Really? Wouldn’t this really mess up what we’re used to?
Of course it would. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at what we’re used to.
After Tiller, the film in praise of four unapologetic providers of late-term abortion, will finally be exposed to a national audience in a few days on PBS. The network that gave you Downton Abbey will feature After Tiller as part of the series P.O.V. PBS is even willing to help you throw your own premiere party. No kidding. (The film was recently screened in Concord as a fundraiser for the Feminist Health Center.)
That’s “PBS” as in Public Broadcasting Service, as in Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as in “viewers like you” as they say in the credits.
P.O.V. is where PBS puts the really edgy stuff – “documentaries with a point of view,” says the program’s web page. True enough. The point of view in After Tiller is that people who get paid to kill near-term preborn children ought to be celebrated. The “Tiller” of the title is late-term abortionist George Tiller who was murdered in 2009 and whose killer is serving life in prison. From the network’s promotional blurb:
It is also an examination of the desperate reasons women seek late abortions. Rather than offering solutions, After Tiller presents the complexities of these women’s difficult decisions and the compassion and ethical dilemmas of the doctors and staff who fear for their own lives as they treat their patients.
The mothers are desperate. The providers fear for their lives. And the children? They are presumably spared desperation and fear as they’re suffocated or dismembered or snipped or have poison injected into vital organs.
“Ethical dilemma,” indeed.
At any rate, help yourself. If you happen to stumble across a premiere party, I hope you’ll report on the festivities. Me, I’ll spend the evening doing something else. Prayer might be a good start.