Roses and Resolve

It didn’t start with New York.

Video of New York legislators cheering after the January 22 passage of a pro-abortion law leaves an indelible impression. It certainly kicked up a fuss on my social media feed, as one person after another expressed shock that elected officials could celebrate abortion so publicly.

New Hampshire got there first, as a former state representative called to remind me.

Phyllis Woods
Phyllis Woods

Phyllis Woods of Dover was and is a woman who puts her belief in human dignity into practice every day. Being a state representative, as great an honor as that was, was just a waypoint on her journey of service. She told me recently about the day a bill to prevent partial-birth abortion came to a vote in 2000. Phyllis was chief sponsor, joined by nine co-sponsors.

Yes, 2000. That’s twelve years before New Hampshire legislators finally passed a partial-birth law banning the abortion practice of partially delivering children before killing them.

The docket for the bill in 2000 tells part of the story: the House defeated the bill on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion, 185-176. What the docket doesn’t mention, and what I never knew until Phyllis told me, is what happened right after the vote: one of her colleagues, an abortion advocate opposed to banning the killing of partially-delivered children, handed out roses to representatives who helped kill the bill.

That colleague, a Rochester Democrat, is still in office, serving her 16th term. She sits on the Judiciary Committee, where she recently voted to recommend killing an effort to repeal buffer zones that limit peaceful activity near abortion facilities.

In 2000, Phyllis was devastated to see fellow representatives celebrating like that. If they had spiked a football right there on the House floor they couldn’t have been more contemptuous not only of the bill but of its supporters.

That wasn’t the end of the story, of course. It was a bad day. But Phyllis is a woman of resolve and vision.

She was among the sponsors of a 2003 law calling for parental notification for minors seeking abortion. The law was challenged in court, and was eventually repealed. Later, after her time in the House, she encouraged parental notification supporters to try again. In 2011, another parental notification law passed, and it is still in place. Not even a veto by Gov. John Lynch could derail it.

She encouraged partial-birth legislation after she left the House, and she was around to celebrate when the legislature in 2012 overrode yet another Lynch veto and passed a partial-birth ban into law.

Phyllis continues to serve her community in many ways that have nothing to do with politics. She has a heart for her neighbors. I mention her political work only because it illustrates something easy to forget at the State House: opponents are gonna oppose. Sometimes they’ll be rude about it. Be of steadfast heart anyway.

Those roses on the New Hampshire House floor in 2000 were meant to silence and discourage everyone speaking out in defense of life. For Phyllis Woods, that indecorous in-your-face gesture strengthened her resolve.

A reminder of NH’s Safe Haven Law

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Phyllis Woods at State House event, Concord (Ellen Kolb photo)

The New Hampshire Knights of Columbus have launched a project to bring higher visibility to New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, which permits the parent of a newborn child to surrender the child to anyone on duty at a “safe haven”: a hospital, police or fire station, or a church. Most states have some variation of this statute, differing mainly in the age limit for the child and the places that serve as havens.

New Hampshire’s law was passed in 2003. Ten co-sponsors led by then-Rep. Phyllis Woods of Dover shepherded the law through a 327-45 vote in the House followed by passage on a voice vote in the Senate.

As explained on the Baby Safe Haven web site, an online clearinghouse for information about these laws,

The purpose of Safe Haven is to protect unwanted babies from being hurt or killed because they were abandoned. You may have heard tragic stories of babies left in dumpsters or public toilets. The parents who committed these acts may have been under severe emotional distress. The mothers may have hidden their pregnancies, fearful of what would happen if their families found out. Because they were afraid and had nowhere to turn for help, they abandoned their babies. Abandoning a baby puts the child in extreme danger. Too often, it results in the child’s death. It is also illegal, with severe consequences. But with Safe Haven, this tragedy doesn’t ever have to happen again.

Woods spoke about the law at the recent Knights of Columbus Birth-Right dinner in Allenstown, and later posted to Facebook: “Thirteen years after we passed the Baby Safe Haven law in NH, the State Council of the K of C is taking up the mission of publicizing the law with a spokesperson, radio and TV appearances, and signs in Safe Haven locations. We are excited and deeply grateful for their efforts.”

News of the recent deaths of newborns in Virginia and California underscore the fact that even in states with Safe Haven laws, too many people are unaware of the safe-haven option. Thumbs up to the NH K of C for working to change that.


 

2012 NH Republican Women’s Summit Live Blog

Phyllis Woods on State House Plaza, Concord (E. Kolb photo)
Phyllis Woods on State House Plaza, Concord (E. Kolb photo)

Today, I’m a guest at “This One’s For the Girls”, a 2012 Women’s Summit organized by former New Hampshire state representative and GOP national committeewoman  I am in debt to Phyllis for welcoming me as representative of Cornerstone Action, even though I’m not a Republican. Call me a lapsed Republican.

After prayer and pledge, program begins with a greeting from NHGOP chairman Wayne MacDonald followed by an RNC video on the history of American women’s suffrage. Let it not be forgotten that women’s history is not the exclusive province of the Democratic party.

I can’t thank Phyllis enough. Her service to NH through the years has been remarkable, and her friendship and mentoring to me means a great deal. This event is happening thanks to her.

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Rep. Pam Tucker, Deputy Speaker of the NH House, on women in the legislature: interesting that until 1998, GOP women outnumbered Democratic women in the NH House. Thanks to the 2010 GOP landslide, there are now 58 GOP women in the House and three in the Senate. “Can you imagine if we had a Republican majority of women in the House?” Says “there is a massive support system in the House & Senate” for women.

As for “women’s issues”, “we are making a difference to the future of the state.” She goes on to list those issues: education; strong economy; strong families; public safety; environment; embracing new technology; health care.

(My comment: I give Rep. Tucker full marks for staying on message. Abortion and the life issues are being supported but not stressed by House leadership. Of course, we all know that Republican does not necessarily mean pro-life or conservative. One must vet one’s candidates. I could add this to every post today, but I won’t.)

“You will be a role model, whether you like it or not” if you’re elected. True enough. In my opinion, that’s why it’s so heartbreaking when an elected Republican woman votes against things like parental notification and informed consent. On the other hand, it’s good to see so many pro-life GOP reps here today. May their tribe increase.

Next speaker: Susie Hudson, Vermont’s GOP National Committeewoman, on the Republican National Committee: she rightly starts with thanks & recognition to Phyllis Woods, who has just stepped down as NH’s committeewoman. She notes that RNC has a rule that chair and co-chair must be of opposite genders. (Affirmative action? You decide.)  She gets applause when she says she’d like to get rid of that gender rule completely (Good!), but an attempt to change that rule has thus far not gained sufficient support. Hudson goes on to encourage involvement in party leadership on the state level, and RNC is developing training programs to make that easier.

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Next up: panel with Sen. Nancy Stiles, Rep. Laurie Sanborn, and Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, discussing how they decided to run and what it’s like being in office.

NS: three terms in House before being elected to Senate in 2010. Her work with her professional association brought her to Concord to testify as a member of the public, and she found herself facing committees “full of men” who were not particularly responsive. Result: running for office. She serves on the Senate Education committee. In the Senate, “you look at all the stakeholders in the room, and ask ‘can you all live with the language in this bill?’ If so, we tend to support it.”  Unlike the House, the Senate does not have time to “get down into the weeds”  on bills. She plans to run for re-election.

LS: Never considered herself politically active until about four years ago. The LLC tax passed a few years ago (“an income tax on small businesses”) galvanized her and her husband (now-Sen. Andy Sanborn) into running. She challenged an 18-year incumbent, and “never thought in a million years I could win” in a college town, “but I did it.” Useful piece of advice she got: “be an expert on something,” which in her case is business. She looked around for a coalition of like-minded legislators, and when she couldn’t find one, she started one. Praises House Republican Alliance for its support. “Women have a special bond … we can do great things together.” Will run again, but she’s moving from Henniker to Bedford and so will have a new district in which to campaign.

LB: A nurse and naval officer by profession (recently returned from Afghanistan); went to law school “to build credibility” as she advocated for veterans. Working for former Congressman & NH Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas in his law/lobbying practice exposed her to day-to-day legislative work. Watching a parental notification vote from the gallery one day when the Democrats were in control, she was livid to see so many seats empty on the House floor. “I wanted to be part of the solution… I had no idea how hard this (campaigning) would be.” She gets applause when she says how parental notification was eventually passed. She recommends the Vesta Roy program for GOP NH women, which she thinks would have helped her as a candidate. Won her House seat in a special election by 17 votes, and then won a regular election by 40 votes – no mean feat in Concord! Does not plan to seek re-election; she has been recalled to Afghanistan. “Step up,” she concludes. She also gives a shout-out to homeschoolers for the effective way they tend to communicate with legislators – no canned emails.

In the Q&A, Rep. Laurie Pettengill asks “do you think about the GOP platform when you vote?” Stiles: yes, “but I also think about the people I represent. ” Sanborn: “absolutely, and I also look at my palm card” to be reminded of her promises. Blankenbeker: “The first thing I look at is constitutionality … [then] does this align with our party values … [then] liberty … and constituency.”

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