In a time when legislators are so inundated with emails that they can’t read them all, what’s old is new again. Go get yourselves some stamps and blank postcards.
I heard this from a state legislator this week as he handed me his card: “Oh, I never check my legislative email.” I hear that all the time, from legislators around the state. A legislative inbox at any given time can have hundreds and even thousands of messages. Any subject line that doesn’t include a hint that the sender is a constituent is likely to yield a quick “delete.”
So spoil your legislators. Write to them. Give them something to read besides bills.
My town has eight at-large state representatives. (One town nearby has 11. I got off easy.) I have their legislative email addresses, and I use them, but I’m planning to use postcards more this term.
I went to my local office supply store and bought a box of plain postcards – the kind that can go through a printer at home. I will be hand-writing messages, but the printer-style postcards are economical. I bought a roll of postcard stamps at the post office. I have the legislators’ home addresses thanks to the state web site. I’m good to go.
Why postcards instead of letters? Because they cost 35 cents to send rather than 55 cents, which is what first-class letter stamps now cost. Also, a postcard forces me to get my message across briefly.
Someone more organized than I would probably think to address a batch of postcards in advance. If that’s you, I salute you.
Phone calls to legislators are always in style, if that’s your preference. Ignoring a call is definitely harder than ignoring an email.
No matter how you reach out to your legislators, remember to keep your message brief, clear, and courteous. If you write it down and put a stamp on it, so much the better.
More than 800 bills have been filed so far by New Hampshire legislators for 2018. Here are a few on which I’ll be reporting, with links to the texts of the bill where available. The Senate hasn’t released all its bill requests yet, so watch for updates in future posts.
HB 1707: The “Abortion Information Act,” requiring the physician who performs an abortion, or the referring physician, to provide the pregnant woman with certain information at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, and to obtain her consent that she has received such information. Sponsors: Reps. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), Victoria Sullivan (R-Manchester), Kevin Verville (R-Deerfield), and Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester).
HB 1680: The “Viable Fetus Protection Act,” to restrict post-viability abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford), Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead), Jeanine Notter, and Victoria Sullivan.
HB 1721: to prevent coerced abortions. Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford), Mark Pearson, Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), Dan Itse (R-Fremont), Jeanine Notter, Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry), Duane Brown (R-Wentworth), and Carl Seidel (R-Nashua).
LSR 2222 (no bill number assigned yet), relative to conscience rights for medical professionals. Sponsors: Reps. Kathleen Souza, Dan Itse, Al Baldasaro, Jeanine Notter, Linda Gould (R-Bedford), James Spillane (R-Deerfield), Kurt Wuelper, Carl Seidel, Jess Edwards (R-Auburn), and Mark Pearson.
HB 1511: amending the fetal homicide law to make it effective at 8 weeks of pregnancy (instead of the 20-week standard in the law signed by Gov. Sununu earlier this year), and removing the law’s exemptions for actions performed by, or at the direction of, the pregnant woman. (I’ll have plenty to say about this one after New Year’s Day, and I doubt I’ll please the sponsors.) Sponsors: Reps. Kurt Wuelper, Linda Gould, Al Baldasaro, Kathleen Souza, Jeanine Notter, and Dan Itse.
HB 1503: authorizing minors 16 years of age and over to independently consent to medical procedures. Sponsor: Rep. Caleb Dyer (L-Pelham).
HB 1671: abolishing the death penalty in New Hampshire. Sponsors: Reps. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene), Caleb Dyer, Ellen Read (D-Newmarket), and Donovan Fenton (D-Keene).
LSR 2748 (no bill number assigned yet): establishing a committee to study end-of-life choices. Sponsors: Sens. Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover) , Bette Lasky (D-Nashua), David Watters (D-Dover), Dan Feltes (D-Concord), Jay Kahn (D-Keene), Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester), and Reps. James MacKay (D-Concord) and Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom).
I recently enjoyed the hospitality of Seacoast pro-lifers who asked me to join Rep. Kurt Wuelper to give a presentation about communicating with legislators. We covered social media, phone calls, letters, and the oldest social medium of all: one-on-one conversation.
Lots to unpack in that topic, for sure – and it was great to meet people ready to put into practice what they were hearing. I love working with pro-life Granite Staters who are ready to get involved in public policy or to sharpen the skills they’re already using.
The 2018 legislative session begins the first week in January, only seven weeks away. Get your communications toolkit ready. One important item to include: the state General Court web site (“General Court” is the formal name for our legislature, reps and senators alike). Head over to http://gencourt.state.nh.us.
Bookmark it. Study it. Find your reps on it. Poke around the site at your leisure and make yourself at home.
It’s filing season for legislative service requests (LSRs) at the State House, the first step in drafting bills for next year. More than 270 have been filed so far, with more to come.
A few of note: Rep. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford) has filed an LSR relative to abortions after viability, and Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester) has one relative to conscience rights for medical professionals. An LSR relative to information regarding abortion has been filed by Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack). All three legislators have a pro-life voting history.
Rep. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene) has filed an LSR to abolish New Hampshire’s death penalty law.
In addition to the LSRs, a few bills will be carried over from the 2017 session, including an abortion statistics measure (HB 471).
Watch for an update after the LSR filing period closes on September 22.
Ovide Lamontagne is general counsel of Americans United for Life – except when he’s back home in Manchester, New Hampshire. There, he’s simply Ovide, having made his mark through the years as attorney, candidate, chairman of the state Board of Education, and supporter of numerous nonprofit organizations in the area. He was in town Saturday to address the closing gathering of the season’s 40 Days for Life campaign in Manchester.
“Be people of hope”
“40 Days for Life is founded on hope. Be people of hope,” he began. He recalled the 2012 election, in which he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire. “People have come up to me over the past two years to say how frustrated they were over what happened in 2012 in that election. How angry and disenfranchised they felt. And I say to them that’s OK. That’s human. I felt frustrated about the way things worked out. But I submit to you we cannot lose hope. We are called to be people of hope and faith and love. Working with 40 Days for Life, we are becoming that.”
He began working for AUL, “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team,” in 2013. “Thank God for 40 Days for Life. We filed an amicus brief for 40 Days for Life in a case called McCullen v. Coakley” – the Massachusetts buffer zone case, well-known to his listeners, who applauded his reference to the case. “Thank God the Supreme Court made the right decision. We were able to write in our brief what 40 Days for Life does – affirm women and men. Young people are reaching out to women who think they don’t have a choice.”
“It starts in the states”
Ovide outlined the background of AUL’s work and legal strategy. “The U.S.A is one of four countries that allows abortions through nine months of pregnancy.” He knows that U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen is trying to win re-election by casting herself as more “pro-choice” than her opponent, Scott Brown. Ovide said, “That means [abortion] through all nine months of pregnancy.” The good news: “62% of Americans polled said there should be more restrictions on abortion, and 64% said they support a late-term abortion ban.”
That’s where AUL’s current strategy kicks in. “[A late-term ban] is what we’re trying to encourage Congress to pass, so we can bring some sanity to what is an extreme position in America and in New Hampshire.”
Americans United for Life has made a priority of developing suggested state-level state legislation, known collectively as the Women’s Protection Project. “The pro-life movement needs a mother-child strategy, and that’s what we do at AUL. The reality is there are two victims of abortion, every time: unborn children and women. Abortion harms women. We are better than that.” Abortion-facility regulation, while not yet in place in New Hampshire, has been adopted in some other states, notably Texas. “Pro-abortion forces say aw, come on, [things like] hallway widths are relevant to getting an abortion? Ask the family of Karnamaya Mongar.” Mongar was one of Kermit Gosnell’s victims, who died following a late-term abortion. The Gosnell grand jury report cited narrow hallways in Gosnell’s facility as one factor that delayed emergency responders from being able to evacuate Mrs. Mongar from the building.
“The state has the right to regulate abortion to make it safe for women. You can’t pass a law for the purpose of closing clinics, but know this: this industry is about making money, and they’re not going to raise standards. They’re going to say we have to close our clinics instead. And that’s OK. We can’t do this without you. It starts in the states.”
“The civil rights movement of this generation”
It’s not lost on Ovide that a hallmark of the contemporary pro-life movement is the involvement of youth, whether it be at the national March for Life or the local 40DFL campaign. “Things are happening in the pro-life movement that are very encouraging. People are waking up to what is going on. And it’s the young people who are going to save our country.
“We can’t give up, and have to move when, where and how we can to advance the culture of life in America. We are the civil rights movement of this generation.”
One more day
Jennifer Robidoux, coordinator for this 40 Days for Life campaign, reminded everyone that the campaign’s formal conclusion is Sunday evening. “There’s still a day and a half. Wouldn’t it be great to end this campaign with every hour covered?” She announced that she’s stepping down as coordinator, leaving plenty of time for another volunteer to step forward. “The spring campaign is just around the corner. The rest of the leadership team is ready to get started.”