Week In Review: bills in Senate; odds ‘n’ ends

The fetal homicide bill about which I wrote last week, HB 217, is on Wednesday’s NH Senate calendar after being put off a week. Last-minute objections regarding the bill’s potential unintended effect on the practice of in vitro fertilization have apparently been addressed to the GOP leadership’s satisfaction. I’ll be in the gallery to watch this vote. If the bill passes, and it should, it will be the culmination of twenty years of work stretching from the late Rep. Carolyn Brady (R-Manchester) to current Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester). If the bill for some reason does not pass or is shelved, it will be the second time since 2009 that legislators have refused to act on the state Supreme Court’s request in the Lamy case to “re-visit” homicide laws as they pertain to a fetus.

The Senate will also take up the resolution commending pregnancy care centers, HCR 31 (subject of another blog post last week). I expect this to pass on party lines, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Sens. Odell & Stiles voted no. Why on earth should anyone vote no? But some legislators see threats to Roe the way three-year-olds see monsters in the closet: the monsters aren’t there, but there’s no reasoning with the three-year-old’s imagination.

I don’t see HCR 41 passing. That’s the resolution calling the federal grant to PPNNE “unconstitutional and void.” At the committee hearing last week, the resolution got a 4-1 “inexpedient to legislate” vote, and Sen. Molly Kelly (D-Keene) will present the report to the full Senate. The Senate does not seem to share the outrage in the House about the federal side-step of a NH decision.

A couple of items not NH-based, but of interest:

  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law late last week a bill to de-fund abortion providers in her state. The legislation she signed is similar to New Hampshire’s HB 228, which the Senate recently tabled over concerns that the bill might lead to litigation and loss of federal funds. Thank God there are legislators and governors willing to take on these threats. We should be standing with them. In Texas, a de-funding law was taken to court by Planned Parenthood affiliates, and a lower court granted PP an injunction in April which was promptly overturned by a higher court. That litigation will continue.
  • The Family Research Council, based in Washington, DC, will have a webcast on Wednesday called “Pregnancy Resource Centers: Celebrating Mother’s Day Every Day.” Details here.

Thumbs Up to Pregnancy Care Centers, I Hope

The NH Senate HHS committee held its hearing on HCR 31 today and approved it 4-1. This resolution commending the work of pregnancy care centers (PCCs) called forth the usual naysayers, but they were far outshone this afternoon by three outstanding advocates.

In case “pregnancy care center” is ambiguous – poor Sen. Kelly couldn’t quite come to terms with it – let me explain: it is a place where pregnant women in crisis can come for anything except abortion. Anyone can come through the door for information, counseling, and practical assistance, whether pregnant or not, whether male or female. CareNet is the most famous example of a pregnancy care center, with several CareNets operating in NH. Most services are free, and in NH, CareNet relies on private donations and an extensive volunteer network. Medical professionals assist with ultrasounds, and referrals to obstetric care are available.

Kathleen Molway of Concord CareNet and Katherine Anderson, RN, of the Pregnancy Resource Center of the Monadnock Region told the senators about the work they do and the women they serve. Jeanneane Maxon, AUL’s VP of External Affairs and a former general counsel to CareNet, offered information about PCC policies and support nationwide. By the time these three women were finished giving their calm and straightforward testimony, opponents of the resolution sounded pathetic. Terms like “anti-choice” and “deceptive” rang pretty hollow once Kathleen, Katherine, & Jeanneane had spoken.

HCR 31 had ten co-sponsors, led by Rep. Kathy Lauer-Rago (R-Franklin).  Full Senate action will come sometime later this month. In the meantime, I recommend writing a check to your local PCC, Birthright, or even Americans United for Life. You’ll be doing some good and you’ll be annoying all the right people.

Your move, Governor Lynch

Two pro-life bills were passed by the New Hampshire Senate today, and the sky didn’t fall. 

The NH Senate passed HB 1679 today on a straight party-line vote, agreeing with the House that it is not a good idea for New Hampshire to put out the welcome mat for practitioners who want to do late-term abortions by the “partial-birth” method, also known as D&X. Partial-birth abortion is as close to infanticide as can be managed. Banning the method saves no babies, and Roe is unscathed. Nevertheless, this is a momentous day. The New Hampshire legislature, for the first time since NH’s 19th-century abortion laws were repealed a few years ago, has said “no” to one abortion method.

A bill to collect abortion statistics (HB 1680) was amended and attenuated to the point where it now sets up a committee to study how to collect the stats. The House passed it, and the Senate today adopted it on a voice vote.

Three other bills fared less well in the Senate today, but got further this year than could have been hoped in earlier sessions. Women’s Right to Know (HB 1659, with a 24-hour waiting period before abortion) was killed by the Senate, but just hours later the House attached it as a nongermane amendment to another bill. That was fun. Not sure how the Senators will feel having it tossed back at them, but we’ll see. HB 1660, to stop abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, went to interim study. HB 228, the funding bill, was tabled.

Of course, WMUR tweeted “Senate blocks House-passed abortion bills.” No tweets about the passage of the partial-birth ban. New Hampshire’s news leader, I’m told …

Governor Lynch should weigh in on the two successful bills shortly. Place your bets.

Funding Vote Tomorrow: Any “Choice” Here?

Live and let live? Promote choice? Sure. Let’s start by saying that while abortion is legal, taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for it. We’ll see tomorrow if at least 13 senators can get behind that.

Whatever tomorrow’s outcome, HB 228 has been a triumph.

This bill would let pro-life New Hampshire residents keep their money away from abortion providers. Several sponsors, led by Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester), have kept the bill going since February 2011. Dogged persistence and some nimble legislative footwork have brought the bill through multiple hearings, delays, amendments, an attempt to kill it on the House floor, and finally House passage last January. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. The Health and Human Services committee voted to recommend the bill by the slimmest of margins (3-2).

The meat of the bill, as of today: “The department shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs non-federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed; provided that this paragraph shall not apply to any hospital.” So hospitals are exempt. The feds’ “qualified abortions” are exempt. No provider is singled out, although PPNNE is bitterly characterizing the bill as an attack on its business. The bill’s backers have time and time again been responsive to constructive suggestions.

State reps have started looking at the business models of abortion providers. They are questioning the statistics being tossed around by those providers (“…only 3 to 5 percent of our business is abortion,” says PPNNE’s lobbyist), which has helped to boost support for collecting statistics via HB 1680. In the House, reps were willing to push back against threats of litigation.

And while Planned Parenthood is not mentioned in the current version of the bill, PPNNE is sure acting like the bill is all about them. They warn darkly of a loss of federal funds and denial of “critical health services” if this bill passes.

Consider the source: PPNNE’s 2010 annual report indicates $3.1 million spent on administration; $822,000 on public policy, including the aforementioned lobbyist; $445,000 on marketing. And they warn of having to turn women away if HB 228 passes?

The senators are under pressure. PPNNE and NARAL Pro-Choice NH have ramped up their networks, and I expect to see lots of “Trust Women” and “I Stand With PP” stickers in the hall outside the Senate chamber tomorrow morning. $822,000 buys a lot of stickers. Do not expect a straight GOP/Dem split on this one (or any of the other pro-life bills on the calendar, with the possible exception of the stats bill).

When the dust has settled, regardless of the outcome, no one running for re-election next fall will be able to dodge fallout from this vote. That’s as it should be.

Dominick’s Law: Hearing Thursday in Concord

“Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

That’s the New Hampshire Supreme Court talking. The legislature might be listening. We’ll find out as HB 217 makes its way to the state senate’s Judiciary committee this week.  

“This case” is  State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, decided in 2009.  Lamy is in prison today and is likely to be there for at least the next four decades. He’s serving time for, among other things, one of the two lives he took when he smashed into a Manchester taxi at over 100 mph in 2006. He successfully appealed his conviction for the second death, arguing that in the eyes of the law, there was no crime because there was no victim.

The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries and the resulting diminished blood flow to her child were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. She named the baby Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy,  158 N.H. 511).  Those two weeks, bracketed by birth and death certificates, weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice James Duggan, went by existing New Hampshire law in overturning Lamy’s convictions for manslaughter and negligent homicide in Dominick’s death. . He refused to legislate from the bench. At the same time, as Duggan wrote in the line I quoted at the beginning of this post, the justices all recognized that existing law was inadequate.

HB 217 is a fetal homicide bill. As Justice Duggan pointed out, this concept hardly breaks new ground. It passed the House, albeit in what the original sponsor, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester), calls a “gutted” version. (Why was leadership moved to amend the original bill? Is the House Reproductive Rights Coalition that influential?)

Someone’s vote had to depend on the amendment, which changed the original bill that covered all preborn children to one that covers preborn children “24 weeks of gestation or more.” The amended bill commanded a fair majority in the House (213-125).

The committee hearing in the House brought forth people who call themselves “pro-choice”,  expressing concern that Roe v. Wade might be weakened by a fetal homicide law.  They evidently do not respect the choice made by Brianna Emmons to carry her child

Thirty states have some form of a fetal homicide law, and the last time I checked, Roe was very much in force. A fetal homicide law cannot stop a single abortion, for the simple reason that it applies only to pregnancies a mother has chosen to carry.

Drunk drivers & abusive partners can inflict pregnancy-ending injuries with literal impunity at any point in pregnancy until and unless New Hampshire passes a bill like the original version of HB 217. Think of it as Dominick’s law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday,  April 26, at 2:30 in room 101 of the Legislative Office Building.