To Undecided Reps, Rx for Fear: Read the Bills

As I checked my Twitter feed recently, the oft-quoted axiom came to mind about a lie getting halfway around the world before truth gets its pants on. An overwrought writer responded to a tweet I wrote for Cornerstone, in which I urged the New Hampshire legislature to override Governor Lynch’s vetoes of the partial-birth and fetal-homicide bills, by tweeting “Who cares if women die! Protect the fetus, so you can ignore it once it’s born.#christiantaliban”

I am not enough at home in the Twitterverse to wage effective rhetorical war 140 characters at a time. Yet I cannot back off completely. My Twitter scold, whoever she or he is, is not conveying the truth. Neither did the governor in his veto messages. Representatives and senators can choose to make their decisions based on fact instead of fear when they consider overriding the vetoes on the 27th. Read the bills.

A recent veto message by Governor Lynch on a school choice bill contained an erroneous claim. Charlie Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center called out the governor for his “factually incorrect veto.” Arlinghaus concluded with the stinging admonition, “Read it before you veto it.”  In a second school-choice veto three days later, the governor based his objections on what was actually in the second bill. I only wish there had been two fetal homicide bills so the governor would have had a chance to correct himself again.

In vetoing the fetal homicide bill, Governor Lynch falsely claimed that “this legislation … would allow the State of New Hampshire to prosecute a pregnant woman”.  The governor missed the plain language of  HB 217: “nothing in [this bill] shall apply to any act committed by the woman pregnant with the fetus”. In fact, HB 217 would not apply to any pregnancy termination caused by any person acting with the consent of the mother.

And then there’s the partial-birth abortion ban. “Who cares if women die?” Everyone cares, except those who unfortunately don’t want to hear about abortion-related maternal deaths. Remember, self-proclaimed reproductive choice advocates  fought this year to block a separate bill requiring the state to collect abortion statistics, so we all could get some authoritative information about how many women and girls suffer post-abortion complications. (That bill, HB 1680, was passed after being amended to authorize study of the idea.)

The governor wrote in his veto message that the HB 1679’s two-physician requirement for emergency situations could cause a delay that might harm a pregnant woman. No. Even if HB1679 passes, any one physician would continue to be able to terminate a woman’s pregnancy, at any point in the pregnancy, by any method he or she finds appropriate except partial-birth, in which the fetus is partially extracted from the woman’s body before being “terminated.”

Back to Twitter: “Protect the fetus, so you can ignore it once it’s born.” How does HB 1679 protect a fetus? The bill’s opponents are afraid there’s some anti-Roe monster in the closet. Not in this one, there isn’t. A woman’s right to choose abortion is unaffected.  Claims to the contrary are false. Read the bill.

As for “#christiantaliban”, no one concerned with truth could have written that. It’s catchy, though, and is probably halfway around the world as I write, along with the false claims that these bills will harm women.

The truth is still putting its pants on, so to speak. It’s right there, though, in the bills. The fears expressed by the governor and the hapless tweeter are groundless. The facts won’t change between now and the 27th.

One More Day to Press For Overrides

Share, link, re-post, if I may be so bold: One more full day remains in which to email and call New Hampshire state representatives and senators before they take up Governor Lynch’s numerous vetoes on Wednesday morning. The fetal homicide and partial-birth-abortion bills have already made history by getting to the governor’s desk. Overriding his vetoes will put these bills into law, where they belong. Failure to override will mean delay, not defeat, since both bills will surely return in future sessions for however long it takes to enact them.

The outcome remains uncertain, in my estimation. Abortion advocacy groups have mobilized their clients and supporters. Their bitter opposition to these bills is ironic and irrational, since neither bill prevents abortion. (Getting around a partial-birth ban is simply a matter of choosing another abortion method.) I won’t unpack those arguments today, having done so at length in earlier posts.

I’ll be in the House gallery Wednesday at 10 a.m. to listen to the debates, and maybe do some last-minute lobbying. The House and Senate sessions will also be streamed online.  I warn you, though, sometimes the demand gets ahead of the bandwidth, making the feeds somewhat unreliable on busy days. I’ll be on Twitter to comment during the debate, and I’ll post vote results here.

School choice & voter ID will be up as well, and those are both important policy initiatives. First things first, though. Let’s get the life issues in order.

 

Running the Numbers on the Override Votes

Anyone taking results for granted on next week’s override votes in New Hampshire is simply not paying attention.

Two-thirds of members present & voting in each chamber the day of the vote are required for an override. At the moment, even with the departure of Andy Sanborn, that still means 16 votes in the now-23-member Senate, which normally enjoys full attendance on session days. With the recent departures of Laurie Sanborn and D.J. Bettencourt in the House, there are 395 seats occupied, although attendance for floor sessions is usually substantially lower. (Corrections to that figure are welcomed. Resignations have kept the House below 400 members for most of this session.)

HB 1679, the partial-birth-abortion ban, passed the Senate 18-5, with Sen. DeBlois absent. Assuming no changes, even with the loss of Sanborn’s vote, the Senate will override. Ditto for HB 217, fetal homicide, which passed 18-6. That’s the good news.

The House is a different story, and since these override attempts will begin in the House, the Senate might not even get a crack at these bills. The vote hinges on three questions: will the Yea votes hold? Are any of the Nays reversible? Perhaps most significantly, how many reps will show up Wednesday?

HB 1679 passed the House 224-110, with a whopping 36 excused absences and 27 other reps simply choosing not to vote. HB 217 passed 213-125, with 47 excused absences and eleven other reps not voting. That means based on the attendance for these votes, HB 1679 reached a two-thirds majority by two votes. HB 217 was thirteen votes shy of two-thirds.

If everyone shows up for veto day – granted, that’s not likely – 264 votes are needed for override. Most challenging scenario: HB 1679 needs to hold all its previous Yeas, and add 40 more. HB 217 needs to pick up 51 votes on top of the original Yeas. Lower attendance in the House will mean fewer votes needed for override.

One hint to all the Republicans: do not count on any Democrats staying home. The minority party this session has been exemplary in its attendance and its unity. It’s actually remarkable that nine Democrats supported a ban on partial-birth abortion, while four supported the fetal homicide bill. Minority leader Terie Norelli is no doubt working to rope in those few stray votes.  Republicans were sharply fractured, despite leadership’s support for these bills: 27 voted against HB 1679; 42 opposed HB 217.

Phone calls and emails between now and the morning of June 27th could make the difference.

Lynch Vetoes Partial-Birth Abortion Ban; Override to Be Attempted 6/27

Late Friday afternoon, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced his veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. The House and Senate will consider overrides to this and other vetoes on June 27.

After becoming the longest-serving New Hampshire governor in nearly two centuries, and after building a reputation as a moderate politician, he has chosen to end his tenure by defending the indefensible. John Lynch is pleasant, intelligent, cheerful, savvy, and friendly. But moderate? No politician who keeps the way clear for this kind of carnage is “moderate.”

The New Hampshire bill, HB 1679, was originally introduced by Rep. Ross Terrio (R-Manchester) as a ban on the partial-birth procedure and a ban on all late-term abortions. Soon after introduction, Terrio agreed to amend the bill so that it addressed only partial-birth. This put the bill in line with similar legislation in force in other states. The bill was drafted to complement federal law and to withstand court challenges. In a spirit of compromise and cooperation, supporters of the bill agreed to amendments that helped to build strong majorities for passage in House and Senate.

None of this figured into Governor Lynch’s veto. While beginning his statement with the assurance “I am not a proponent of so-called partial birth abortion”, he went on to reject the bill because he found it unnecessary and dangerous, in that order.

The federal ban means none is needed at the state level, according to the governor. He overlooked or ignored the fact that the federal law is only triggered if the partial-birth procedure is committed by a federal employee, or by someone on federal property, or by someone engaged in interstate commerce. He also made no mention of the fact that federal officials may choose not to enforce the federal law, leaving states without their own partial-birth bans helpless to stop the procedure.

Governor Lynch expressed fear that HB 1679 would jeopardize the life of a woman in emergency circumstances. He was critical of the bill’s requirement that two physicians agree that life-threatening conditions exist before a partial-birth procedure can be done. Getting that second opinion could cost a woman her life, he fears.

But how? The partial-birth ban would apply only to a particular procedure, not to all abortion methods. Any physician declaring an emergency could terminate a pregnancy without a second opinion, presumably with the pregnant woman’s consent, using any method other than the one that pulls the live child/fetus partway out of the woman’s body before “termination.” The governor’s objection sounds as though he means that women are at risk if that procedure is ruled out. (If the governor had true concern for women’s health and safety, he would direct the state department of public health to collect statistics on abortion in New Hampshire, so that he would have hard data to buttress any assertion that abortion is safe for women.)

Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose abortion. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales case, Roe did not establish a provider’s right to kill a child after assisting a woman in a vaginal delivery of a portion of the child’s body. Or should I say fetus’s? Tough call, when the child/fetus is half-in and half-out of the mother. In any case, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on the partial-birth procedure. The Court decided that while the ban prevented the performance of one particularly gruesome and inhumane procedure, it did not amount to a denial of a woman’s choice since alternative abortion methods are available. Note that the federal law and New Hampshire bill apply to abortion providers, not to women seeking termination of pregnancy.

Having issued the veto, John Lynch is beyond persuasion. Representatives and state senators are not.

The governor’s full statement on HB 1679 is at http://1.usa.gov/MdosTR

Decisions: Lynch & Bass

The fetal homicide and partial-birth abortion bills would not die, despite grueling journeys through the New Hampshire House & Senate. Look up the dockets for these bills on the state web site sometime. A number of tales are hidden behind those dry factual entries.

And so, at long last, Governor Lynch will get these bills. I am telling every pro-life person I know to get those calls and emails going. The number is 271-2121, where I’m sure a very polite individual is waiting to take our calls. Lynch’s pleasant and understated persona is not enough to make me forget that he vetoed parental notification (and overriding that veto was one of the proudest moments for the legislative class of ’10). He has not made direct veto threats on either fetal homicide or partial birth, but on the latter, it’s a real stretch for me to believe he’ll support it.

As for fetal homicide, if Lynch can’t be persuaded by the state Supreme court’s Lamy case, he just can’t be persuaded.

The success of these bills so far is great news, and it shows what can be done with legislators who can think straight. As for the governor, we live in hope. What will he do?

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In Congress today, a bill called PRENDA came up for a vote, and fell short of the two-thirds that it needed. PRENDA stands for Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act, and it was written to ban sex-selection abortions. PP hates the bill, and the president has weighed in against it as well. When the dust settled this afternoon, only seven Republicans had voted against the bill. One was Charlie Bass, New Hampshire’s own Congressman from the Second District.

Bass is avowedly pro-choice, and has been for as long as I can remember. I used to testify in front of his committee when he was a state senator. But refusing to frown on sex selection? Really? Worldwide, most of the preborn children killed for being the “wrong” sex are girls. There’s a war on women for you.

This won’t help him in November, of course, since Ann Kuster will get the pro-Roe vote. Kuster’s mother, the late Susan McLane, served with Bass in the state senate years ago. McLane and Bass were both “pro-choice” Republicans. It is some kind of rough justice that pits McLane’s daughter against Bass now.