How NH’s Secretary of State Could Affect Abortion Statistics

Former Executive Councilor Colin “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” Van Ostern is campaigning to replace New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. The vote will be taken on December 5 by the newly-elected House and Senate in Concord. The result will have implications for an important pro-life policy goal.

[Update, 12/6/18: Secretary of State Gardner narrowly won re-election over Mr. Van Ostern.]

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From June 2016: then-Executive Councilors Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern before voting Yes on contracts with abortion providers.

New Hampshire is one of very few states that does not report abortion statistics to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a public health measure. If – excuse me, when – New Hampshire finally puts women’s health ahead of lesser concerns, two state departments will be involved in any statistics program: the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which oversees public health issues, and the Department of State, which oversees the Division of Vital Records.

That’s why it matters who holds the position of New Hampshire Secretary of State. The administrative framework for carrying out any statistics-collection program will be handled by the team in the vital records office. If that office answers to a pro-abortion Secretary of State, I don’t believe cooperation with an abortion statistics law will be forthcoming.

In past discussions to which I’ve been a party regarding proposed abortion-statistics legislation, a representative of the vital records office has been present. At every point, that representative has been scrupulously neutral on abortion, assuring policymakers that the division can find and implement any necessary software and procedures to collect abortion statistics in a manner that respects the privacy of all individuals.

Whenever a legislative policy committee has had a hearing on abortion and has requested input from the vital records office, that has been the essence of the office’s message: you tell us what you want collected – and since this is information other states are already collecting and reporting to the CDC, we’re not talking rocket science here – and we’ll get the job done.

That’s been the policy under Bill Gardner. Mr. Gardner is a Democrat, but at no point in his tenure as Secretary of State has that made a difference to him. He has carried out every aspect of his job in a nonpartisan manner. Andrew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy summed it up:

…Gardner gave his loyalty to the office, never to a party or person. Being his friend, as many legislators have been, was no help if your race was close. Being a member of his political party was no help, either. And everyone knew it.

Gardner always understood that the survival of a democratic republic requires trust in its institutions. If the state’s top election official showed even hints of favoritism, trust in the system would erode. And that would undermine our whole experiment in republican government.

Newly-elected Democrats in the New Hampshire House held a straw poll not long ago. Van Ostern won in a landslide. Since then, many New Hampshire officials – including Democrats former Gov. John Lynch and current Sen. Lou D’Allesandro – have spoken up about why they support Gardner for Secretary of State. Will their endorsements make a difference? We’ll find out on December 5.

That’s when the New Hampshire House and Senate will meet in joint session. First order of business will be swearing in the victors of November’s election. Democrats will be in the majority. Then comes the vote for Secretary of State.

The result is going to matter.

Conscience bill: what to remember & why to act now

I went to the hearing on HB 1787 yesterday, regarding conscience protections for health care providers who decline to participate in abortion, sterilization, or artificial contraception. I have many pages of notes. I made an audio recording of part of the session. I could give you a blow-by-blow description of everything.

But I won’t today. Not here, not now. There are only two takeaways I want to share with you immediately, knowing that the House Judiciary Committee has put off for another day its vote on the bill. Haven’t contacted them yet? Hop to it, please, before sunrise on February 22: HouseJudiciaryCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

  1. There are legislators – a substantial number on the committee, actually – who appear to believe that people who won’t do abortions don’t belong in any medical field at all. 
  2. There are legislators who adamantly assert that there is no difference between induced abortion, miscarriage, and the loss of a child as an indirect effect of the direct action of saving a mother’s life (treating a woman for ectopic pregnancy, for example). 

Number two got backing from the ACLU of New Hampshire and from a Dr. Young, a Concord OB/GYN who came to testify against conscience rights. This is the same doctor who at the hearing on the late-term abortion bill testified that in 35 years of practice, he had never seen or heard of a post-18-week abortion on a healthy fetus.

Fortunately, other doctors were present who defended conscience rights and urged legislators to pass the bill. They were questioned closely about how intent could possibly distinguish one kind of pregnancy termination from another. They answered truthfully, but I could see their words falling on stony ground.

Your doctor needs to hear this. Pharmacists need to know about this bill. So do nurses and PAs. For that matter, so do the people working in abortion facilities who really don’t want to be the ones to reassemble the products of conception following an abortion.

I’ll update this post after the committee makes its recommendation.

UPDATE, 2/27/18: The House Judiciary Committee voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1787, 14-4.

SB 490: “A Thinly Veiled Effort to Study Assisted Suicide”

Nancy Elliott wasted no time sending a message to the New Hampshire Senate committee considering SB 490, the “end of life” study bill. The bill’s sponsor made her assisted suicide advocacy clear in her own testimony, if not in her bill. Elliott, a former New Hampshire legislator who is now heads up Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – USA, responded with written testimony. It was published in full on EPC’s blog. Here’s an excerpt.

Nancy Elliott (photo by Ellen Kolb)

I am opposed to SB490 because it is a thinly veiled effort to study Assisted Suicide, also known as death with dignity, medical aid in dying, euthanasia and mercy killing, with the intent to legalize it in New Hampshire. Our state has a long standing bipartisan opposition to Assisted Suicide. This practice is discriminatory to the disabled and elderly, sending them the message that they are not as valuable as able bodied people. While young and healthy individuals receive suicide counseling, the elderly, sick and disabled are steered to take their lives.

I know this bill is for a STUDY, but studying things that would be harmful if passed is a waste of taxpayer money and runs the risk of giving legitimacy and momentum to this practice….I believe that this commission is dangerous to our citizens because the report that will come out, will indicate an imaginary mandate for Assisted Suicide.

Read the full post here.

Update: Sponsor Testifies Her “End of Life” Study Bill is About “Medically Assisted Death”

At the February 8 Senate Health and Human Services committee hearing introducing SB 490, Sen. Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover) spoke in praise of what she called “medically assisted death.” With that, she confirmed that her bill “establishing a commission to study end-of-life choices” would be open to concluding that assisted suicide is an acceptable state policy.

She strenuously objected to the use of the term “assisted suicide” to describe her bill or her goal. She used the words “medically assisted death” again and again.

I say call the bill what it is: a gateway to assisted suicide.

Some of the people at the hearing, including myself, weren’t sure what the Senator had in mind until she made her introductory speech. I give her credit for candor and for clearing up the mystery so quickly.

A representative of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester testified that if the bill had been what the title indicated, there would have been no cause for concern. In view of the sponsor’s words today, he said, it’s now a different story.

A physician, an advocate for people with brain injuries, and people concerned with disability rights testified about the danger of a public policy that treats suicide as a medical treatment. A young man with Down syndrome spoke against the bill: “Disability is not a fate worse than death!” He knew, as the other speakers opposing the bill know, that normalizing physician-assisted suicide will have far-reaching effects.

Sen. Hennessey professed mystification that anyone could see her bill as a threat to people with disabilities. I will not question her sincerity at this point.

A representative of hospice agencies testified with the disappointing news that after years of resisting proposals that could lead to assisted suicide, her group is now “neutral” on this bill.

No date has been set for the committee vote. The full Senate must act on the bill no later than March 22.

Another “End of Life” Study Bill for N.H.

Another end-of-life study bill is coming to Concord. This year’s version is SB 490, with a dozen co-sponsors led by Sen. Martha Hennessey (D-Lebanon). The hearing is Thursday, February 8, at 1:15 p.m. in room 100 of the State House.

I take as skeptical a view of this as I did of earlier “study” bills. Any end-of-life study commission that does not start out by explicitly ruling out assisted suicide as an acceptable policy will only serve to pave the way for an assisted suicide law.

In 2016, the last time such a “study” was introduced, sponsors tipped their hand by including the words “aid in dying” in the bill.  The 2018 version rectifies that tactical error.

I’ll keep an eye on this one.