The attack ad told me to check the facts – so I did

(I wrote this essay for Cornerstone, which has kindly given me permission to re-post here.)

I am an “undeclared” voter, in the parlance of my state’s election laws, which means I’m not registered with any political party. I get a hefty pile of political ads in the mail every day during election season, as both major parties try to win my vote. Check the facts, they urge me.

I recently got a mailer from the state Democrat party attacking a state senate candidate, Gary Daniels, who happens to be a friend of mine. The mailer informed me that Daniels was coming to take away my reproductive rights.

No wonder “check the facts” is in the tiniest print.

I know the candidate and his voting record, so I was skeptical of the mailer right off the bat. But right there in tiny print on the front was that challenge: check the facts.

Fact number one: the first claim printed on the mailer cited a “vote” that Daniels never cast. He was not a member of the legislature at the time the bill in question was introduced.

“Opposes reproductive health care”

The footnote to the claim that Daniels “opposes reproductive health care” points to HB 685 (2020). Gary Daniels, while he is a former senator, was not in office in 2020. The incumbent in that seat is Shannon Chandley, whose party is responsible for the false claim that Daniels voted on HB 685.

Chandley voted in favor of the bill. That is not to her credit.

HB 685 was an abortion insurance mandate. It was not about reproductive health care. It was about violating the conscience rights of people who would rather not be involved in abortion, even tangentially, by providing insurance for it. It was about equating abortion with maternity care. As the Governor pointed out in his veto message, it was also about violating the federal Weldon Amendment, which would have cost the state millions of dollars in federal funds for human services programs in New Hampshire.

(The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funds from going to states that discriminate against any health care entity which does not pay for or provide coverage for abortions.)

A vote for HB 685 doesn’t look to me like support for health care. Instead, it looks like respect for conscience rights.

“Opposes doctor-patient confidentiality”

The mailer goes on to proclaim that Daniels “opposes doctor-patient confidentiality.” Another footnote, this one for HB 629 (2016).

HB 629 was an abortion statistics bill. Not only was it written to protect patient confidentiality, but it contained language to protect provider identity as well. That was how the bill made it through the House on a voice vote, before it was tabled in the Senate after an effort to pass it failed on a 12-12 vote.

I participated as a representative of a policy group, Cornerstone Action, in every hearing and work session between the time the bill was introduced in January 2015 until it died on the table in the state senate in May 2016. I know how great a role confidentiality played in the lengthy negotiations.

To say that support for abortion statistics is “opposition to doctor-patient confidentiality” is a lie. Period.

“Opposes access to contraception”

The footnote to the third claim on the anti-Daniels mailer (“opposes access to contraception”) takes us all the way back to a 2015 bill, SB 42, “relative to employee notification of contraceptive coverage” in employer-provided health insurance. This was an attempt to hang a scarlet letter on companies that were exempt from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

This bill was so poorly received in the state senate that it was tabled and killed on a voice vote. It never even made it over to the House.

The only roll call vote on the bill was on a proposed amendment that was rejected on a 12-12 tie. Daniels voted against the proposed amendment because he understood the underlying bill.

That’s it. There’s no truth that the vote on SB 42 was about “access to contraception.” No one’s access to contraception was at issue. This bill was all about annoyance with the Supreme Court and with anyone who objected to the contraceptive mandate.

Now, more than ever…

In bold print, the mailer from the state Democrat party tells me that “now, more than ever, we need to come together to protect state level reproductive health.”

Let me fix that for them.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to respect each other’s rights of conscience.

Now, more than ever, we need to come together to put women’s health ahead of politics, and start reporting abortion statistics including maternal morbidity and mortality. Forty-seven other states have figured out how to do that with aggregate data that protects patient confidentiality.

Now, more than ever, we need to reclaim the authentic meaning of rights and health.

And while we’re at it: now, more than ever, we need to call out a party when it fabricates a vote in an effort to smear a candidate. Just because there are footnotes doesn’t mean the information is accurate or reliable.

I suspect Gary Daniels is not the only candidate whose pro-life record is going to be misrepresented. Do your local candidates a favor: if you hear an accusation about “opposing contraception” or “opposing doctor-patient confidentiality,” call for documentation. If what you get in reply are references to HB 685, HB 629, and SB 42, now you know what they really mean.

The party that created that mailer will have to find another way to attract my vote.

Header photo: Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Down-ballot: where the action is

Maybe you plan to vote by absentee ballot. Maybe you’re holding out for the big national election day on November 3. Either way, this one’s for you: pay attention to down-ballot races. Four hundred state representative seats and 24 Senate seats need to be filled. Don’t let anyone else make your choices for you.

I carry no brief for anyone at the top of a party’s ticket. I care deeply, though, about what our state legislature is going to look like. To that end, I offer some thoughts.

How to vote

There are two and only two authoritative sources for information on ballots and voting procedure: your town or city clerk, and the elections division of The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.

That’s it. Never mind what else someone tells you on Facebook.

Absentee balloting is allowed for COVID concerns. The people who say “if you can go to the grocery store, you can show up to vote” are not the ones who made the law. If they have a problem, they can take it up with the Secretary of State.

Your town or city clerk has the most up-to-date information from the Secretary of State about all election law. The clerk will have a sample ballot, an absentee ballot application and the ballot itself, and information about hours and location for polling on Election Day.

If you have not voted yet, whether you’re planning to vote in person or absentee, the number one thing on your to-do list needs to be get a sample ballot. (Ask your town clerk, or download one from the Secretary of State’s website.) That’s the only way you’ll know who’s on the ballot for all those races below President and Governor.

Know the candidates

We’re getting down to the wire here. There’s not much time to meet your candidates if you don’t know them already. Make the effort, by looking up their information online if not by speaking to them directly. Social media pages and candidates’ own websites can provide useful information.

Are there pro-life candidates?

Some candidates will tell you they’re pro-life, which is always nice to hear, and they’d better be able to back it up. There are incumbent representatives and senators who have already put their beliefs on display.

For the 2019-20 session, state legislators voted on legislation to protect children who survive attempted abortion. (Majority vote: no.) They voted on abortion statistics and on removing the unenforceable buffer zone statute. (Majority vote: no.) They decided whether or not to support Governor Sununu’s veto of a measure to mandate abortion coverage in some health insurance policies. (Yes, because an override needed a two-thirds majority.)

Down-ballot races put each of those people in office.

Hold them accountable.

“All Democrats are alike,” you might sniff. Democrats for Life sees it differently. They found one Democrat to endorse in New Hampshire, Cam Iannalfo, running for state rep in Salem, Rockingham district 8.

“All Republicans are alike,” you might think hopefully. Get over it. Look up their votes.

These earlier posts contain links to the relevant votes.

Where your reps stand: votes 2019-20

Veto sustained on abortion insurance mandate

Primary election: September 8

Welcome to September of an even-numbered year – which means there’s a primary election coming in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, September 8, New Hampshire voters from both major parties will make the choices that we’ll see reflected on the general election ballot in November.

Don’t just rely on the clusters of signs at every intersection in town. Do some homework and head to the polls with a purpose.

What voters need to know

Your town or city clerk’s office will be able to point you to everything you need to know about the election: a sample ballot, where to vote, the hours the polls are open, absentee ballot procedure, same-day registration procedure. Even if your town hall has limited public hours due to COVID restrictions, you can learn a lot through a phone call or a visit to your town’s website.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State website is another good source for information. Look for the “elections” drop-down menu at sos.nh.gov. Printable sample ballots for each town are available there, too, for Democrats and for Republicans.

Read more of the post

Pro-life agencies need your help

Pro-life agencies offering services to pregnant and parenting women throughout New Hampshire are still in business, even as pandemic-suppression policies are forcing nonprofits to re-evaluate how they carry out their missions. Each center has its own needs. That means each center offers opportunities for service.

Finding a local agency

In a recent Leaven for the Loaf Facebook video, I asked staff and volunteers at New Hampshire pro-life pregnancy care agencies to share their needs. I knew already that agencies aren’t all alike. I learned that the COVID-suppression policies were having different impacts in different areas.

My wish to develop a one-stop list of volunteer opportunities quickly went poof. In the odd conditions under which we’ve all been living for the past few months, an agency’s needs can change suddenly.

Find out what’s in your own backyard. There’s a list on this blog of New Hampshire agencies that offer assistance to pregnant and parenting women and their partners, and do so without performing or referring for abortions.

Fundraising: finding new approaches

Imagine you’re the executive director of a nonprofit that provides human services. Your annual budget includes anticipated revenues from a banquet, a yard sale, and a collection from a local church. Those revenue sources have been reliable. Then comes COVID-19.

No banquets. Limited yard sales. Church routines turned upside-down.

That’s the reality for every executive director of a pro-life agency in New Hampshire. Each must find new ways to serve clients, while being innovative in fundraising.

If you’re in a position to help financially, now is a good time to do so. Find out which agencies have missions close to your heart. There will never be a better time to offer your support. This is a time for generosity informed by creativity.

A sample of current needs

Perhaps you have a calling to assist with housing or employment counseling. Maybe you’d be perfect for leading a parenting class. Maybe you have creative fundraising ideas, or a gift for crisis counseling, or the administrative skills to help re-open an office. Call your nearest agency and find out what clients need at the moment. You might find a Wish List on an agency’s website.

The information below is a sampling of the needs of some New Hampshire pro-life ministries.

Birthright of Manchester has just re-opened its office after a months-long closure due to community-wide COVID precautions. Their main annual fundraiser is a Mother’s Day flower sale, which could not be held this year. Donations to make up for that lost flower sale are most welcome.

St. Gianna’s Place provides housing for pregnant and parenting women. Even your spare change can help! Check out the Baby Bottle Campaign, which has gone virtual. There’s a St. Gianna’s Wish List you can help fulfill. The annual banquet has unfortunately been cancelled.

Pennacook Pregnancy Center‘s Facebook page is frequently updated not only with needs (diapers and wipes, and don’t forget toddler sizes), but with offers of specific equipment available for families.

Real Options: watch the Facebook pages for the Nashua and Manchester offices for information on services and needs. Inquiries via Facebook appear to be answered promptly, or you can call (603) 883-1122 (Nashua) or (603) 623-1122 (Manchester).

Service is always in style. To everyone who helps pro-life direct-service ministries thrive, thank you.

(Edited to note cancellation of St. Gianna’s Place fundraising banquet.)

Three New Hampshire Pastors on Racism

There’s been so much grief and anger and even noise in our nation since George Floyd died in Minneapolis that I have hesitated even to put down in writing my own reactions. My social media feeds – and I can’t just drop them; they’re integral to my work – leave me feeling alienated and quite inadequate to rise to the occasion we’re in.

I have a couple of things to share with you that I hope you’ll find constructive.

a webinar worth your time

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a contractor with Cornerstone Action, dealing with legislation and communication. One of my Cornerstone colleagues, who’s on the Cornerstone Policy Research (non-political) side of the organization, facilitated a webinar this week with three Manchester-area pastors. Two are black, one is Hispanic, and each has something to say about his own experience in New Hampshire. This was an eye-opening hour for me.

You can register for the webinar recording at this link, which I believe will expire on or around June 17th.

I’m grateful to pastors Michael Worsley, John Rivera, and Isaiah Martin (a former UNH Wildcat football player, by the way) for their participation.

a thought for future reference

Say what you will about COVID-19 precautions and how they may or may not have been selectively enforced during recent public demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. My own takeaway is this: any response made by government and law enforcement to the peaceful rallies in Mr. Floyd’s memory is equally applicable to rallies and all other peaceful public witness to the dignity of human life, now and in the future, with or without public health emergencies.

It’s good to see how law enforcement was careful to distinguish the recent peaceful demonstration in Manchester’s Stark Park from violent demonstration. Peaceful pro-life witnesses have all heard at one time or another that our very presence creates “an atmosphere of violence.” We know better. Peaceful demonstration, even with an undercurrent of anger, isn’t on a spectrum with violence on the other end. Violence is in a separate dimension all its own.