A Note on Death Penalty Repeal

Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has vetoed repeal of the state’s death penalty law. As I write, the House will vote on an override in just a few hours. Whether enough votes are there is anyone’s guess. It’s going to be close. The Governor is fighting hard to have his veto sustained.

He considers capital punishment to be a way of supporting law enforcement. As the granddaughter of a cop and the niece of two others, I don’t, but that’s not what this post is about.

It’s odd that in a year when the Governor has promised that he’ll be vetoing all kinds of bills, he’s putting such a high value on vetoing this one. It’s his first veto, and he’s facing a Democratic House and Senate. I have heard from Republican legislators about the pressure being brought to bear by party brass to back up the Governor’s determination to keep the death penalty on the books.

I got a faint whiff of the pressure myself this morning at an informal gathering of political acquaintances. I’m an undeclared voter (that’s Granitespeak for “independent”), but I was admonished by someone who should know better that I had to back the Governor on this one, and tell my reps to do likewise.

A conscience vote was fine when the bill first came through House and Senate, I was told, but that was then and this is now. Now, it’s not a conscience vote. It’s a matter of supporting the Governor. The Dems are doing this on purpose, timing this, trying to make him look bad.

The Governor, by the way, touted a 64% approval rating in April, making him the third-most-popular governor in the nation. He doesn’t need my pity.

I’ve been involved in politics all my adult life. I understand horse trading, whipping votes, and how arms need to be twisted now and then. But never, least of all now, have I had any patience for considering a life-issue bill to be a matter of conscience in March and a matter of saving face two months later.

This is the kind of thing that makes “undeclared” the largest bloc of voters in New Hampshire.

Opposition to the death penalty is something of a stumbling block to a lot of people who are pro-life in other respects. Some of those people are Republican legislators who voted against the repeal bill earlier this session and will vote to sustain the veto. They’re not giving the party whips any heartburn. They will be consistent.

The Republicans who voted in favor of death penalty repeal are the ones getting the lectures now. They’re the ones I’m thinking about as the vote nears. I hope they’ll be consistent, too.

Gosnell Was Convicted Six Years Ago, and N.H. Remains Gosnell-Friendly

May 13, 2013, Philadelphia: Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder, manslaughter, and a couple of hundred lesser offenses. He’s in prison for life. If he were released, he could set up shop in New Hampshire and commit with impunity some of the same actions for which he’s now imprisoned.

Gosnell snipped the necks of children who survived his attempts to abort them, one of whom he joked was big enough “to walk me to the bus stop.” Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who came to him for what she thought would be a safe and legal abortion, was sedated to death by the staff Gosnell was supposed to oversee, using protocols he had established to compensate for the staff’s lack of formal medical training.

The carnage was uncovered only accidentally, triggered by a 2010 drug raid at Gosnell’s “clinic,” which was a pill mill on top of its other charms. (Convictions on twelve drug offenses netted him another 30 years in prison.)

He got away with abusing women and children for a long time, because the one-time governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – a Republican named Tom Ridge, later entrusted with the Department of Homeland Security – ordered that abortion regulations not be enforced. They might have interfered with abortion access, and that was something Ridge wouldn’t countenance. Ridge’s policy prevailed for an appalling length of time.

Karnamaya Mongar isn’t around to offer her thoughts on Ridge’s defense of her rights.

New Hampshire differs from Pennsylvania in that we don’t have unenforced abortion regulations as far as we know; instead we have next-to-no regulations.

Read the rest of the post at GraniteGrok.

New Abortion Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee

“It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

Let those words roll around in your head for a moment. We’ll get back to them.

No, I’m not digging up my notes from HB 158, the abortion statistics bill killed by the New Hampshire House a few months ago. The quote that opens this post is from a hearing on another bill altogether, SB 111, on healthcare data. Having passed the state senate, SB 111 is now in the hands of the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee.

SB 111 was meant to be a housekeeping measure, revising and updating procedures for collection of various health-related data. Take a look at the fascinating NH Health WISDOM web site to get a sense of the kind of information the state tracks. SB 111 was introduced at the request of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Independently, it occurred to several people that with health care data up for discussion, DHHS’s lack of abortion data was a missing piece. Four representatives – Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), and Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead – drafted an amendment to SB 111 for the HHS committee to consider, basically adding abortion to the data covered by the bill.

That is not what DHHS had in mind. Thanks to my day job, I was present when the amendment was introduced at a subcommittee work session. I think “dismay” is the best word for the look on the faces of the DHHS staff present when they heard it.

Some of the state reps weren’t thrilled, either.

To make a long story short, the subcommittee declined to accept the amendment, and instead recommended that the bill as introduced be forwarded to the full HHS committee for a vote on May 7. When that day came, Rep. Stapleton politely brought up his proposed amendment (slightly tweaked and re-numbered since the subcommittee session). After a half hour of discussion, committee chair Rep. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole) decided to put off the vote on SB 111 and any amendments until the week of May 13.

That’s where it stands. I can say with confidence that the underlying bill is not in dispute. Any proposed amendment involving abortion statistics is another story. There are procedural objections to an amendment, but the substance is where one finds the real rub.

During the May 7 committee discussion, Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Keene) took note in the calmest of tones of what he called efforts around the country to restrict abortion. (Maybe if someone were to tell him about New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, he’d feel better.) Then came his summation about the amendment: “It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

His colleague, Rep. Susan Ticehurst, was noticeably agitated as she registered her opinion about the controversial amendment. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’re talking about data.”

Actually, we are. Abortion and data collection are not mutually exclusive. Data collection and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive, either, as SB 111 underscores: it covers many kinds of data the state has collected for years while protecting patient privacy.

Insistence on suppressing data collection regarding one condition suggests fear of what the data will show.

One rep stated that DHHS already collects abortion statistics, but I’m skeptical about that. I’m not aware of any mandatory reporting rule that has gone into effect at the freestanding facilities where most of New Hampshire’s abortions take place. (No one is seriously asserting that hospital records would tell the whole story.) Given the intense opposition from abortion-friendly reps to any suggestion that abortions be counted, I don’t believe New Hampshire makes a serious attempt at present to find out how many induced terminations of pregnancy are happening statewide.

DHHS officials needn’t lose sleep. I expect passage of SB 111, with no provision for abortion statistics. Still, I’m glad that a few representatives are willing to point out the missing piece .

N.H. “End of Life Study” Bill Advances Without Protective Language

The New Hampshire House voted 214-140 to pass HB 291, establishing a committee to study end-of-life care. Sponsors of the bill made clear when the bill was introduced that if passed, the study committee would consider assisted suicide as one type of “care.”

The House rejected an amendment from Rep. Barbara Griffin that would have prevented assisted suicide from being a topic in the study. The vote on that was 146-208.

The bill now goes to the Senate. No hearing date has been announced.

More background on HB 291 here.

House Vote Thursday: Don’t Let Assisted Suicide Be Part of End-of-Life Study

It’s back: here’s another bill to “study” end of life issues, introduced by New Hampshire legislators who are open about their determination to include assisted suicide in any such study. HB 291 is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday, March 14.

(Update, March 14: bill was passed without amendment.) 

The House Judiciary Committee majority voted ought to pass on the bill. A minority on the committee is recommending an amendment to the bill that preserves the intent of studying palliative and other end-of-life care, while excluding any possibility of the bill being used to advance assisted suicide.

I’m going to contact my representatives to support “ought to pass with amendment” on HB 291, using amendment #2019-0767h. The committee minority report written by Rep. Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown) says in part,

The minority believes that the bill also sends a message of suicide being acceptable in a time where concerns on rising rates of suicide and work for suicide prevention are the focus of other bills and an existing Council on Suicide Prevention. Similar legislation has been before this body before and has been vetoed twice by [former] Governor Hassan. The minority believes this bill should be amended to focus the committee work on palliative and hospice care for the populations dealing with not only end of life, but also complex health and disability issues.

I’ve lost count of the pro-assisted suicide bills that have gone down to defeat or veto in our state. I say add HB 291 to that list, unless it’s amended to exclude assisted suicide as an item on the “health care” menu.

You can find your representatives’ names and contact information at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/default.aspx.