Big Talk, Then a Whimper: Senate Tables Born-Alive

The New Hampshire Senate has voted 14-10 along party lines to table SB 741-FN, a born-alive infant protection act.

Words vs. Actions

Before the tabling motion was made, Sen. Thomas Sherman (D-Rye) introduced the “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) motion made by the Health and Human Services Committee, of which he is chair. Sen. Sherman called the title of the bill “inflammatory and inaccurate,” said the bill “drives a false narrative,” and added that as a physician “I find this extremely offensive.”

Extremely offended or not, he joined his colleagues a few minutes later in tabling the bill, rather than pressing for a vote on his ITL motion.

Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) emphasized that the bill came down to one question: “isn’t a baby who is born alive a person, no matter what the circumstances of their birth?”

Rather than answering the question, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) responded by moving to table the bill. In parliamentary terms, a tabling motion sets the bill aside, is non-debatable, and takes precedence over an ITL motion. In practical terms, the tabling motion short-circuited further consideration of the bill, and prevented a vote on Sen. Sherman’s ITL motion.

Affirm the right of every newborn to care, regardless of circumstances of birth? Nope.

A constituent of Sen. Cindy Rosenwald forwarded to me an email the senator sent in reply to a plea to support SB 741-FN. “I hope you will be comforted to know that every person who is born is alive and receives full legal protections.” (There’s an extra “and” in there, no doubt due to hasty typing. I know how that goes.) The senator had a chance with SB 741-FN to add enforcement provisions to “legal protections.” She chose not to, joining her colleagues in punting – er, voting to table.

A vote to remove the bill from the table is unlikely.

Roll Call

Voting to table SB 741-FN, all Democrat party, with district number and hometown: Sens. David Watters (4-Dover), Martha Hennessey (5-Hanover), Jeanne Dietsch (9-Peterborough), Jay Kahn (10-Keene), Shannon Chandley (11-Amherst), Melanie Levesque (12-Brookline), Cindy Rosenwald (13-Nashua), Dan Feltes (15-Concord), Kevin Cavanaugh (16-Manchester), Donna Soucy (18-Manchester), Lou D’Allesandro (20-Manchester), Martha Fuller Clark (21-Portsmouth), Jon Morgan (23-Brentwood), Thomas Sherman (24-Rye.)

Voting against the tabling motion, all Republicans with district number and hometown: Sens. David Starr (1-Franconia), Bob Giuda (2-Warren), Jeb Bradley (3-Wolfeboro), James Gray (6-Rochester), Harold French (7-Franklin), Ruth Ward (8-Stoddard), Sharon Carson (14-Londonderry), John Reagan (17-Deerfield), Regina Birdsell (19-Hampstead), Chuck Morse (22-Salem).

House Bill: Awaiting Committee Vote

The House’s version of born-alive legislation, HB 1675, will have a committee vote on March 4.

SB 490 was gateway to assisted suicide, and the Senate just slammed it shut for now

(Updated to add link to recording of Senate debate and vote.)

On a 12-10 vote, the New Hampshire Senate has killed a bill that would have paved the way for assisted suicide. I did not see that result coming. Thank-yous are in order, including one I didn’t think I’d ever be writing.

Voting “inexpedient to legislate,” sending the bill into the trash heap: Senators Bob Giuda, James Gray, Harold French, Ruth Ward, Gary Daniels, Kevin Avard, John Reagan, Donna Soucy, Regina Birdsell, Chuck Morse, William Gannon, and Dan Innis. If any one of them had voted differently, today’s outcome would have been different.

Yes, that Donna Soucy, godmother of the unenforced buffer zone law. She was the lone Democrat to do the right thing on SB 490. She deserves thanks and respect for today’s vote.

And then there are the senators who wanted to keep the bill out of the trash heap: Jeff Woodburn, Jeb Bradley, David Watters, Martha Hennessey, Andy Sanborn, Jay Kahn, Bette Lasky, Dan Feltes, Kevin Cavanaugh, and Martha Fuller Clark. Bradley and Sanborn were the two Republicans favoring the bill, for those of you tracking such things.

Senators Sharon Carson and Lou D’Allesandro were absent.

Contact information for all senators is here.

The bill was supposedly about studying end of life choices. The sponsor tipped her hand when she introduced the bill in committee and went on to defend assisted suicide, while fervently denying that what she was advocating was suicide. Medical provision of lethal doses of drugs, yes, but not assisted suicide.  She tried to sell that position today, but 12 senators weren’t buying it.

I listened to the debate this morning as a theme gradually emerged: right to life vs. personal autonomy. Where I have I heard that one before? And then there was it’s-just-a-study. Riiiight.

The 12-10 ITL result was a good day’s work. It’s also a clear warning. Assisted-suicide advocates are going to come back in one guise or another, even though this year’s bill is dead. The lines of support and opposition for assisted suicide are going to look different from the ones regarding abortion.  Neutrality will only serve to support the assisted suicide advocates, who want the lethal prescription to be seen as medical treatment.

Maybe some legislators can be persuaded to change their position. Maybe some are adamant. You might want to look into that before the next election.

Celebrate the day’s work. Thank the people who voted ITL. Take a breath. Then be ready for the next round, whenever it comes.

Recording of the debate and vote, from the NH General Court web site: http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00286/Harmony/en/View/RecentEnded/20180109/1024

Go to Feb. 22 recording, click on Agenda tab, and scroll down to SB 490 at time stamp 11:09:27.

 

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.

Where’s the roll call on SB 66? (Update: Found!)

Update: a few hours after this post went up, so did the Senate roll calls for SB 66. View them at this link. The first roll call listed is the 8-week amendment that failed on a 12-12 vote. Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and Dan Innis (R-New Castle) joined the Senate’s ten Democrats in rejecting that language. They did support the 20-week amendment, which passed 14-10. 

The thing about legislative roll calls is that they’re public. They tie elected officials to particular votes. They’re an accountability measure.

During the debate on Senate Bill 66, the fetal homicide measure passed yesterday by the New Hampshire Senate, three roll call votes were taken, according to the official docket for the bill, accessed via the General Court’s web site.

Docket of SB 66 as posted 11:30 a.m., 2/17/2017.

The first roll call (“RC”) was on an amendment; the vote was 12-12; the amendment failed (“AF”). This was the attempt to change the bill’s language to 8 weeks, instead of keeping the original “viability.”

The second roll call was on the amendment to replace “viability” with 20 weeks. This one passed (“AA” or “amendment adopted”) 14-10. The third roll call was to accept the bill as amended, and on another 14-10 vote, the bill passed.

Those RC notations are all hyperlinked to the page that ought to give us the roll calls: each Senator’s name, each Senator’s vote. Instead, we have this.

Record indicating no roll calls on SB 66, as viewed 11:30 a.m. 2/17/2017.

Each day’s roll calls are usually posted online by the end of the day. The recent House right-to-work roll call was online within ten minutes of when the vote occurred.

Personally, I’d like to know the breakdown on that 12-12 vote. I feel safe in saying all ten Democratic senators opposed the bill in all its proposed versions. So who are the two Republicans who couldn’t support the 8-week amendment?

I could just call the Senate clerk or call a Senator. But there’s that thing about roll calls being public. There’s that roll call page on the web site.

I’ll update this when and if the roll calls are posted.

 

Update: N.H. Senate Passes Amended Fetal Homicide Bill

The New Hampshire Senate today passed SB 66 on a 14-10 vote. The measure is a fetal homicide bill that would give prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against anyone whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s wishes. As introduced, SB 66 could have been used only for fetal deaths after viability, but the Senate amended the bill today to change “viability” to 20 weeks’ gestation.

The bill’s legislative docket includes links to roll calls.

A New Hampshire House committee last week retained another fetal homicide bill, HB 156, which bars further action on the House version for now. The House bill would have made fetal homicide charges possible for deaths of preborn children at 8 weeks’ gestation or later. It is likely that the Senate bill will now go to the same House committee that retained HB 156.