A sobering day in the N.H. House

That was quite a ride the New Hampshire House gave us yesterday, swerving into a figurative ditch time and again while getting back on track just often enough to let me catch my breath. And all this after 5 p.m.! That’s how long it took for the Judiciary committee bills to come up for a vote. My long-suffering husband and son endured dinner with the livestream of the House session droning in the background.

And what was the upshot of all of it?

  • A buffer zone repeal bill passed very narrowly, and now goes to the Senate where the buffer zone law originated.
  • A “right to privacy” constitutional amendment got a majority of votes, but lost because it didn’t get the necessary three-fifths required for a constitutional amendment to advance. Similar amendments in other states have been used to block pro-life legislation, whether sponsors intended that or not.
  • Three bills to limit mid- and late-term abortions were killed. One of them was killed without debate. The debates on the other two made clear that while none of them will come out and say so, abortion supporters DO want to overturn Roe, in a manner quite different from what one might expect. Read on for more about this.
  • Another no-debate quickie: a proposal to treat abortion facilities like ambulatory care facilities was killed.
  • A proposal to keep all state funds, personnel and facilities away from abortion providers was killed.
  • A bill to criminalize the sexual trafficking of minors passed.

I will link to the roll calls in a later post. You can find them yourself at the legislative web site. Remember that “yes” isn’t necessarily a pro-life vote; if the motion is ITL (inexpedient to legislate), a “yes” vote is a vote to kill the bill. Hats off to the legislators who made sure roll calls took place, despite any annoyance the Speaker of the House might have been feeling.

This is a lengthy post. What can I say? The House inspires me.

Rep. Glenn Cordelli
Rep. Glenn Cordelli

Before I go any further, let me salute Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), whose speech in favor of a ban on eugenic abortion was the most moving and powerful of all the pro-life appeals in the House yesterday. I wish I’d recorded it. His strong appeal to his colleagues’ better natures, his plea that they reject discrimination against preborn children with genetic abnormalities, was calm and clear. It is a sharp jolt to know that the House voted inexpedient to legislate on the measure, 224-88, the most lopsided anti-life vote of the day.

A glimpse at a post-Roe legislative landscape

Opponents of limits on late-term abortion argued forcefully for their colleagues to ignore Roe v. Wade, without saying so directly, and possibly without realizing it.

Emerging from Justice Harry Blackmun’s twisted reasoning in Roe v. Wade was a feeble nod in the direction of the preborn child – “the potentiality of human life,” in the Justice’s words – that allowed even in 1973 the possibility of limiting late-term abortion.

“We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a nonresident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct…and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes ‘compelling.’…With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability….State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications.” (Roe v. Wade, 420 U.S. 113 (1973), pp. 162 et seq.)

What one abortion advocate after another said on the New Hampshire House floor yesterday was that a woman’s right to abort her child is paramount throughout pregnancy. No limits are tolerable. Forget this viability business. As Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene) said during the debate on HB 1623, the bill to bar abortions performed on the grounds of genetic problems, “This is about the autonomy of women.”

For years, pro-lifers have seen the overturning of Roe as a much-desired goal. In the 1970s, it seemed that ditching Roe would overturn legal abortion nationwide. Later, in the ’80s and ’90s, it became clear that overturning Roe would simply send abortion back to the states, where pro-life legislation was being passed piecemeal. That’s where we think we are now.

We’re wrong.

What if Roe is overturned not by a Court that acknowledges the right to life at every stage of development, but a Court that agrees with Rep. Phillips that this is all about women’s autonomy at every stage of pregnancy and that viability is therefore irrelevant?

Think it can’t happen? Repeat after me: Ginsburg. Sotomayor. Kagan. Breyer. The Court’s biggest question mark (which way will he jump next?), Kennedy.

That’s five, folks. With the right case, Roe will be gone, and in its wake will be not a return to the states, but an affirmation that abortion is purely what Rep. Phillips said it is, a matter of autonomy. Viability will be irrelevant under law nationwide and for generations.

The New Hampshire House gave us a look at that yesterday: no abortion regulation or restriction on the basis of fetal viability. No limit or oversight on eugenic abortion. No restriction on the basis of fetal pain.

Don’t blame it all on Democrats. It took some Republicans to kill these bills.

Buffer zone repeal bill approved, barely

The vote on buffer zone repeal was 160-152. It doesn’t get much closer. HB 1570 now goes to the Senate where a 12-12 tie is likely.

Rep. Gary Hopper had the presence of mind to call for reconsideration – in this case, a parliamentary move. He asked for reconsideration and asked his colleagues to vote No. Failure of a reconsideration motion keeps a bill from being brought up again. Smart move.

The ongoing mischaracterization of the buffer zone law is a running sore. Rep. Janet Wall (D-Durham): “This bill is not about behaviors but about allowing space…The Massachusetts law [that was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court] was very definite; the New Hampshire law allows flexibility…Wait to see what the federal court will do.”

The federal court has already done something: prevented enforcement of the law. The state’s determination to forestall the inevitable – that is, overturning the law, so obviously inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley decision – is one reason the New Hampshire case has stalled.

The “flexibility” of the New Hampshire law – even in committee, Rep. Wall was a huge fan of the “up-to-25-feet” provision in the original law – comes from the fact that the law delegates to abortion providers the right to determine the size, precise location, and enforcement hours of any “buffer zone.” In other words, a private entity is granted the right to determine when the public may occupy public space.

In addition, the reason the Massachusetts law was overturned had nothing whatsoever to do with “definite” things like the size of the zone. It was a First Amendment decision, pure and simple. I suspect Rep. Wall knows that; she’s an intelligent woman.

Rep. Frank Heffron (D-Exeter) continued the mischaracterization. The buffer zone law “exists to protect women from harassment and abuse.” Actually, anti-harassment laws exist for that purpose, as do laws against trespassing and disorderly conduct – none of which have needed to be used in recent years outside New Hampshire abortion facilities, if law enforcement records are accurate.

Rep. Heffron said the need for the buffer zone was expressed in the “findings” in the buffer zone law, including “fear and intimidation” experienced by women entering abortion facilities. He couldn’t refer to documented criminal charges against any recent peaceful pro-life witness in New Hampshire because there haven’t been any. He couldn’t explain how a violent assailant would be any less a threat to women entering a facility than to women praying outside it, or how a buffer zone law would be useful in such an instance.

Like Rep. Wall, he claimed that the New Hampshire law isn’t really like the old Massachusetts law. Tell it to the federal judge who issued an injunction against our law.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper
Rep. Kurt Wuelper

It took Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R-Strafford) to bring his colleagues back to the point. “This [buffer zone] law is intended strictly to restrict rights of citizens on public property. It seeks to restrict the right to speak.” His argument prevailed, all too narrowly. On to the Senate.

Rep. Groen is gavelled twice

The “buying, selling, and experimenting on unborn infants or bodily remains resulting from abortion” would have been banned by HB 1663. The House killed the bill on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion, 155-122.

Might’ve been instructive to have been running the Center for Medical Progress videos on the State House plaza during that vote, but never mind.

Rep. Linda Kenison (D-Concord) made the claim “there is no voluntary tissue donation in New Hampshire.” Really? Anywhere? That would be a relief of sorts. Documentation would be nice. “This is a strategy to restrict a woman’s access.” How? Would an abortion provider refuse to do a procedure on a woman who doesn’t want her child’s remains bought and sold? Now that would be a story.

Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)
Rep. Warren Groen (photo from warrengroen.blogspot.com)

The Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson), apparently had his gavel ready when Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) rose to speak in favor of HB 1663. Groen began to speak about the parallels between modern-day fetal tissue trafficking and the medical excesses of the Nazi regime. Down came the gavel with a sharp rap. “We’re not dealing with Naziism today.” After a pause, Groen resumed, mentioning Robert Jay Lifton’s book The Nazi Doctors (on my bookshelf nearby as I write this, as it happens). Gavelled again. Another pause. Rep. Groen resumed, leaving the Nazis out of it.

Some of the reps who had no qualms about killing the mid- and late-term abortion bans were apparently given pause by this bill. It was killed, but on a closer vote than I expected: inexpedient to legislate, 155-122.

Public funds for abortion counseling: yes, you’re paying

HB 1684 labored under the handicap of coming near the end of an eleven-hour session day in a roomful of legislators who just wanted to go home. The bill would have prohibited the use of public funds, employees, and facilities in assisting or performing abortion. It also would have prohibited public employees within the scope of their employment from counseling or encouraging a woman to get an abortion not necessary to save the woman’s life, and it would have required a second opinion before an abortion could be performed on a woman whose life was deemed to be in danger

Nope, said Rep. Charlene Takesian (R-Pelham), who spoke against the bill. She sounded particularly exercised that a state employee would be prohibited from telling (for example) a pregnant jail inmate about all her options. They’re under no such prohibition now, you see.

An ought-to-pass motion failed on a roll call vote, 131-146, and then “inexpedient to legislate” passed on a loud voice vote which over the live stream sounded mighty close.

Privacy amendment

Republican Reps. Neal Kurk of Weare and Claire Rouillard of Goffstown made strong pitches for CACR 22. Both of them rejected any suggestion that the measure was about abortion. Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) questioned Kurk closely on that point, mentioning the trouble that other states have had with privacy amendments and pro-life legislation. Kurk dismissed the concern out of hand, saying he had confidence in the good sense of New Hampshire courts.

Fortunately, that “good sense” won’t be tested on this measure, which attracted a majority ought-to-pass vote but not the three-fifths it required.

Human trafficking bill passes

I’ll close with good news: HB 1628 passed, making it a class B felony to pay to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18. Governor Hassan issued a statement following the vote: “In 2014, we passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen protections for human trafficking victims, and this measure builds on those efforts by establishing enhanced penalties for human trafficking of minors. I thank the House for passing this common-sense legislation, and I encourage the Senate to continue its efforts in the fight against this deplorable crime.”

For once, I agree with the Governor on what constitutes common-sense legislation.


NH committee publishes reports on Born-Alive & dismemberment abortion bills; House to vote next week

The New Hampshire House calendar for the February 10 session has just been released, with reports on bills including HB 1627, the Born-Alive Infant Protection bill, and HB 1560, a bill to ban the dismemberment method of abortion.

Here are the House Judiciary Committee reports on the bills. For most legislators, this is the only information they will see before the vote. Voters who support these bills should contact their representatives and ask them to overturn the “inexpedient to legislate” committee reports.

HB 1560-FN, relative to abortion procedures. MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE (committee vote: 9-7). MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.

Rep. Linda Kenison for the Majority of Judiciary. This bill seeks to add a new section to New Hampshire RSA 132 (Protection for Maternity and Infancy) which would prohibit the most common method of second trimester pre-viability abortion to the ten percent (10%) of women who make a difficult decision to terminate their pregnancy. The medical term for this safe procedure is called non-intact D&E (Dilation and Evacuation). Across the country, this procedure is performed on the ten percent of women, ninety-five percent (95%) of the time. Other jurisdictions, as recently as January 22, 2016, have held nearly identical statutory language which banned this very type of D&E, likely unconstitutional. Nauser v. Kansas, Court of Appeals of the State of Kansas (2016). The appellate court refused to overrule the lower court’s injunction which kept the law from taking effect, reasoning that the statute violated the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Similarly, the United States Supreme Court determined this to be a safe alternative to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (a federal statute regulating abortion procedures.) Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 US 127 (2007). The Gonzales court also recognized long-standing law which prohibits an undue interference for the State on a woman’s right to terminate their pregnancy prior to viability. Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973). This bill, if passed, will likely force New Hampshire into costly and unnecessary litigation. In addition to the constitutional issues, the bill’s language is discriminatory and disregards the individual rights of women New Hampshire citizens. The bill allows a court to determine whether the identity of the women should be disclosed in “every civil criminal, or administrative proceeding,” regardless of her consent to such disclosure. It further allows only a “married” father of the unborn to bring an action for civil damages, yet does not provide the right to an unmarried father or same-sex spouse. This bill also criminalizes health care providers for practicing medicine in a manner they determine is medically sound and is in the best interest of their patients. This bill imposes criminal penalties, including a class A felony for physicians and other medical providers who perform this procedure. We are trusted with the responsibility to pass laws for all the citizens of New Hampshire. This bill, as worded, falls short of our responsibility and violates the laws of the State of New Hampshire and United States Constitution.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Minority of Judiciary. The minority believes the dismemberment abortion procedure known as Dilation and Evacuation [D&E] is so monstrous it should be illegal. No baby should ever be subjected to being physically torn limb-from-limb, which is precisely what the D&E does. Our Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual” punishment for crimes. We apply this principle even to those who have committed crimes so serious they have received the death penalty. We believe the pre-born child, having committed no crime, deserves similar mercy. Even more, our State should do all it can to protect every baby from such a torturous procedure. We believe the Supreme Court would follow the same logic it used to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion ban and uphold the D&E ban.

HB 1627-FN, relative to the protection of infants born alive. MAJORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE (committee vote: 9-7). MINORITY: OUGHT TO PASS.

Rep. Paul Berch for the Majority of Judiciary. There are existing laws, both Federal and State, that extend protections to infants born alive. This bill seeks to go beyond these laws to allow criminal prosecutions of doctors who are believed to have exceeded vague concepts relating to evidence of life, medically necessary or reasonable care, without defining these terms. A bipartisan majority of the committee felt this bill impermissibly interferes with medical professionals trying to provide the best medical care that they can. This legislation would require doctors to employ extraordinary resuscitation measures for pre-viable fetuses who are born as a result of early (pre-term) labor or abortion – even where there is no chance of viability or ultimate survival. The requirements of this bill deviate from the medical standard of care and interfere with the ability of physicians to work during a time of pregnancy loss or termination. New Hampshire currently has some of the lowest abortion rates and the best maternal health outcomes in the country, yet we heard testimony that this legislation would threaten the state’s top neonatologists and fetal medicine specialists with prosecution and subject doctors and families to an invasive level of government interference.

Rep. Kurt Wuelper for the Minority of Judiciary. The minority believes that every baby born alive deserves nourishment and “medically appropriate and reasonable” care, even if that baby is born alive accidentally after an abortion procedure. Further, it is the role of the Legislature to define crimes and establish penalties for crimes. This bill is similar to the Federal Born Alive Protection Act and requires any such baby receive such care and makes failure to provide that care a crime. With criminal cases from other states documenting that hundreds of these babies have been killed (or allowed to die with no care given), we believe our state needs to clearly identify such wanton disregard for living babies a serious crime.

Looking back: selected NH House votes, 2015

State House, Concord NH
State House, Concord NH

Personhood, buffer zone repeal, fetal homicide, conscience protection for health care providers, public funding of abortion providers, abortion statistics, restriction on post-21-week abortion: the New Hampshire House considered all those issues this year, with mixed results. Bills on personhood, conscience protection, and limiting public funding of abortion providers were killed outright. The post-21-week bill was tabled without a roll call vote. A fetal homicide bill and an abortion statistics bill (the latter without a roll call) are still under consideration for 2016. Buffer zone repeal passed the House but was tabled in the Senate.

As always, the New Hampshire General Court home page is your portal to vote results, the text of bills, and identifying your representatives.  You can find every legislator’s action on every roll call vote. Take careful note of what motion is at issue in a vote;  “yes” might mean “yes” to killing the bill.

56 legislators to thank

Five votes represents a very small piece of House business and a small segment of the right-to-life spectrum. Granting that, though, these five 2015 votes are worth noting together:  HB 194 (personhood), HB 403 (buffer zone repeal), HB 560 (fetal homicide/Griffin’s Law from Rep. Rideout), HB 670 (conscience rights for medical professionals), and HB 677 (limiting public funding to abortion providers).

Fifty-six legislators showed up for all five of those votes, favored buffer zone repeal and fetal homicide legislation, and opposed killing the bills on personhood, conscience rights, and public funding of abortion providers. They’re listed here alphabetically by county, with district number in parentheses.

By their votes, these reps defended the right to life and the right to peaceful free expression. By their votes, they agreed that people who don’t want to cooperate in abortion should not be coerced into doing so. They know that New Hampshire law needs to recognize (as do more than three dozen other states) that anyone like an impaired driver or abusive partner who injures a pregnant woman and thereby causes the termination of her pregnancy against her will has committed homicide.

Next time you see these representatives, say thanks.  I will.

Belknap County

Raymond Howard Jr. (8), Robert Luther (3), Franklin Tilton (3).

Carroll County

Ed Comeau (5), Glenn Cordelli (4), Frank McCarthy (2), Bill Nelson (5).

Cheshire County: none.
Coos County

Leon Rideout (7).

Grafton County

Duane Brown (16), Paul Ingbretson (15), Eric Johnson (7).

Hillsborough County

Ralph Boehm (20), John Burt (39), Larry Gagne (13), Linda Gould (7), William Goulette (23), Edith Hogan (34), Joseph Lachance (8), Dick Marston (19), Mark McLean (15), Josh Moore (21), David Murotake (32), Keith Murphy (7), Jeanine Notter (21), Bill Ohm (36), Carl Seidel (28), Kathleen Souza (43), Victoria Sullivan (16)

Merrimack County

Michael Brewster (21), Harold French (2), Carol McGuire (29), Dan McGuire (21), Brian Seaworth (20)

Rockingham County

Max Abramson (20), Al Baldasaro (5), David Bates (7), Allen Cook (11), Joe Duarte (2), J. Tracy Emerick (21), William Gannon (4), Richard Gordon (35), Jeffrey Harris (9), Bruce Hodgdon (1), Robert Introne (5), Daniel Itse (10), Lawrence “Mike” Kappler (3), Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien (6), Frederick Rice (21), James Spillane (2), Chris True (4).

Strafford County

Warren Groen (10), Thomas Kaczynski Jr. (22), Robert Knowles (12), Don Leeman (23), Leonard Turcotte (4).

Sullivan County

Thomas Laware (8).


NH House elects Shawn Jasper as Speaker

Reps Hall (800x600) (640x480)A parliamentary battle in Concord ended today with Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) emerging as Speaker of the New Hampshire House. It took three ballots and more than six hours for Jasper to prevail over former Speaker Bill O’Brien 195-178.

The original candidates for Speaker were Republican former Speaker Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon and Democrat Steve Shurtleff of Penacook. O’Brien fell four votes shy of a majority on the first ballot, with blank ballots and write-ins preventing either candidate from winning outright. Nominations were then re-opened and Jasper’s name was introduced. After a recess for party caucuses, Shurtleff bowed out of the race. Two ballots later, Jasper prevailed.

Jasper in 2006 on conscience rights

House Bill 1492 from the 2006 session was introduced by five pro-life legislators including current Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester). It was a bill to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists choosing not to participate in dispensing so-called “emergency contraception” or “morning-after” pills. The bill failed. (The full vote is in this House record, which unfortunately requires quite a bit of scrolling to reach HB 1492.)

Rep. Shawn Jasper voted to kill the bill. He was one of the last people to speak to the House before the vote. His remarks were nowhere preserved, as far as I know, so I can’t link to a news account. I was in the gallery that day, though, and one thing Mr. Jasper said to his colleagues has stayed with me ever since.

“If you’re opposed to this kind of thing, you know better than to go into that profession.”

Representative Jasper is now Speaker Jasper.

Jasper’s record on the life issues

Jasper has a mixed record on life-issue bills, voting pro-life more often than not.

In the past session, he supported the original language of Griffin’s Law. He opposed the buffer zone and assisted suicide. On the other side, he voted against abortion-facility licensing and death penalty repeal. He did not vote on personhood.

He has a mixed record on informed consent for abortion, opposing such a bill in 2012 but supporting a similar one in 2013. In the 2011-12 session, he voted for parental notification, and against partial-birth abortion. Oddly, he voted against a resolution commending the work of pregnancy care centers.

Yet to be seen

Bills are already in the works for the 2015 session to deal with abortion statistics, fetal homicide and repeal of the buffer zone law. A decision by Speaker Jasper to support or oppose those measures will play a role in how they’ll be dealt with in the House.

The House majority and minority leadership teams will be named shortly, and committee assignments will follow.