House-passed budget contains language to bar abortion funding

The New Hampshire House has passed a budget with language “to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize abortions directly or indirectly”. The proposed budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.

While New Hampshire has long protected taxpayers from most abortion funding (there are exceptions), the new House language calls for complete physical and financial separation of abortion from family planning. This would mean that an entity seeking a contract with the state to provide family planning services – say, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England – would not be eligible unless its abortion business were set up as a separate entity.

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Recent House roll calls: limiting late-term abortion, HB 625

The New Hampshire House voted 191-160 to pass HB 625, limiting abortions after 24 weeks’ gestation, with an exception for a mother’s medical emergency. The roll call is on the General Court website.

Contact information for representatives is on the General Court site as well. Thank-yous where they’re due would undoubtedly be welcomed.

A few notes

Committee recommendation overturned

Before voting on an “Ought to Pass” motion, the House had to take up the Judiciary Committee’s 11-10 recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate.” The House overturned the committee recommendation, as it later did with the committee’s ITL recommendation for HB 233 (born-alive protection).

No walkout

Unlike with the born-alive protection bill, there was no walkout by HB 625’s opponents. Only thirteen representatives are on the roll call as “Not Voting.”

Protecting born-alive children triggered a walkout by some House members, while limiting abortion did not. Interesting contrast there.

I have a separate post on the born-alive vote.

Party lines

The vote was generally along party lines, with Republicans in the majority. The exceptions are noted here.

Three Democrats joined 188 Republicans in voting “Ought to Pass (OTP)”: Richard Ames (Jaffrey), Stacie-Marie Laughton (Nashua), and John Mann (Alstead).

Fourteen Republicans joined 146 Democrats in opposing the OTP motion: James Allard (Pittsfield), Lex Berezhny (Grafton), Joseph Depalma IV (Littleton), Oliver Ford (Chester), Edward “Ned” Gordon (Bristol; Chairman of House Judiciary; voted against bill in committee), John Hunt (Rindge), John Lewicke (Mason), Norman Major (Plaistow), James Mason (Franklin), Russell Ober (Hudson), Diane Pauer (Brookline), Andrew Prout (Hudson), Dan Wolf (Newbury), and Josh Yokela (Fremont).

Next step

HB 625 will head to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 14-10 majority. As seen with the House roll call, though, party lines won’t necessarily hold.

Header photo by Dan Evans/Pixabay.

Recent House roll calls: born-alive protection, HB 233

The recent New Hampshire House roll call vote on born-alive protection for abortion survivors was largely along party lines, but not entirely. The HB 233 vote was messy, for various reasons. The walkout on the bill (as previously reported on this blog) could leave voters wondering if “Not Voting” next to a rep’s name means opposition or just indifference.

With all those caveats, we can now see how New Hampshire’s state representatives voted on one of the most important bills of the session so far, an act “relative to the right of any infant born alive to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment.”

I have a separate post on the session’s other life-issue bill, HB 625, on late-term abortion.

Setting the stage

HB 233 was finally passed 181-49 on a division vote. “Division” means a count was taken, but no names were associated with the votes. We don’t know who voted “ought to pass.” What we do know is who voted “inexpedient to legislate,” which was a separate motion.

A look at the bill’s docket shows that no fewer than eight votes were cast on the bill or the procedures associated with it: one voice vote, three roll calls, and 4 divisions. Throw in the walkout, and we have a sense of the urgency felt by the bill’s opponents trying to derail HB 233 by any means necessary.

Remember, HB 233 is not an abortion bill. It is about protecting children already born.

You can find your own state representatives’ names and contact information on the General Court website. I recommend saying thank-you where appropriate.

The most useful vote

Among those eight votes on HB 233, the clearest and most useful vote for future reference was the roll call vote on the Judiciary Committee’s “inexpedient to legislate” motion. That was basically a simple question: shall we kill this bill? That motion failed, 46-186.

The complete roll call on the ITL motion is here. Because the motion for that roll call was “inexpedient to legislate (ITL),” a Yea vote was a vote to kill the born-alive bill. (If you are looking at the bill’s docket, see vote #40.)

That means 186 representatives went on record against killing the bill. Looks like a double negative, but that’s what happens when the motion is “inexpedient to legislate.”

I mention some party affiliations in order to sketch in the exceptions to what was otherwise a party-line vote, with most Republicans favoring the bill and thus opposing the ITL motion.

Against the party-line tide: Democrats voting against the ITL motion

Three Democrats chose not to walk out and instead go on record opposing the ITL motion. They were Larry Laflamme of Berlin, Cecilia Rich of Somersworth, and Stephen Woodcock of Center Conway.

Against the party-line tide: Republicans supporting ITL

On the other hand, twelve Republicans joined 34 Democrats in supporting the “inexpedient to legislate” motion:

Lex Berezhny (Grafton), Joseph Depalma IV (Littleton), Edward “Ned” Gordon (Bristol; chairman of Judiciary Committee; he joined committee Democrats in the committee’s 11-10 ITL recommendation), John Graham (Bedford), John Hunt (Rindge), Melissa Litchfield (Brentwood), James Mason (Franklin), Russell Ober (Hudson), Diane Pauer (Brookline), Dennis Thompson (Stewartstown), Dan Wolf (Newbury), Josh Yokela (Fremont).

How many reps bailed out on the vote?

The number of representatives listed as “Not Voting” on HB 233 – as opposed to “Excused,” which is a formal advance notification to the House Clerk of absence for cause – was 121. That reflects the walkout.

That’s right: one hundred twenty-one. If your representatives were among them, feel free to ask them why they left. Maybe they had a good reason. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were confused about the motion. Don’t assume. Ask.

Party line? Close. Seven Republicans joined 114 Democrats in “Not Voting”: Dennis Acton (Fremont), David Danielson (Bedford), Joseph Guthrie (Hampstead), Mary Ann Kimball (Derry), David Lundgren and Betsy McKinney (both of Londonderry), and Mark Warden (Manchester).

One of my reps (a Democrat) walked out. As she explained on Facebook, “We were hoping to deprive the House of a quorum to vote on it, but it passed anyway.” I appreciate her candor, even if I don’t appreciate her walking out on her job. Perhaps her action was instructive, and someday a bill she supports will fall victim to a quorum call. Who knows?

If you look at the roll call you’ll see there were 44 excused absences, which is on the high side for a session. COVID concerns may have played a role. Given the walkout on HB 233, the bill would have passed anyway, even if all the representatives with excused absences had voted against it.

Next step

The next public hearing on HB 233 hasn’t been scheduled yet. We’ll have to wait awhile to see what the bill’s opponents will do next to kill a bill to provide medically appropriate and reasonable care to any infant born alive.

Header photo: Daisy Laparra/Pexels

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 and HB 233 are both on the way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Edited to add name of Senate committee.

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.