2016 in review: who leavened the loaf this year?

Politics dominated the news including this blog in 2016. As the year ends, though, I find that what sticks in my mind the most is my visit to Pathways pregnancy care center in Littleton back in April. I went to learn more about the new ultrasound service offered there. The real story turned out to be the extent of the services already in place, aside from the limited ultrasounds.

By welcoming me to see their ministry, the Pathways team reminded me that pro-life activism takes many forms, not all of them political.

Greatest inspiration: pro-life pregnancy support centers

The staff and volunteers at all of New Hampshire’s pro-life pregnancy support centers brought me encouragement and inspiration in a challenging year.  I am indebted to Lesley Wotten of Pathways, who introduced me to her staff in Littleton and opened my eyes to the full range of services Pathways provides in the North Country.

 

Birthright, Care Net and its affiliates, Pennacook Pregnancy Center, Our Place: all over New Hampshire, people are working to provide the support a pregnant woman might need in order to choose life for her child.

“Crisis” pregnancy center has become a misnomer. A woman or girl who comes in at a moment of crisis or indecision might be looking for options counseling or simply someone to listen. For today’s pro-life pregnancy care centers, that’s just the beginning. Depending on the size and resources of the center, referrals for medical care are available. Assistance with housing might be in order. Parenting classes or referrals for them can be offered. Every center has a supply of diapers and clothes and furniture, offering practical day-to-day support after the children are born.

Fathers are not left out, as I was reminded at Pathways. Parenting classes are in demand, and the centers that offer them welcome dads as well as moms.

Anyone can be part of this work by volunteering or making donations. Make that a resolution for 2017.


 

Honorable mention: pro-life education programs (hold the politics!)

The Concord-Manchester-Nashua area gets most of the press where life issues are concerned. There are educational and non-political programs and projects going on outside that Everett Turnpike  corridor, though. Here are a few.

Kudos to the Knights of Columbus Council 7572 in Windham, St. Matthew parish, which sponsors a monthly Respect Life speaker series covering a range of life issues. Presentations are open to the public. The Council will soon announce its slate of speakers for 2017.

Works of Mercy ministry at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Windham offers films and speakers. Coming up January 21: a screening of The Euthanasia Deception, a video produced by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. For more information, email worksofmercy@gmail.com.

Of long standing, but often under the radar, is the New Hampshire Right to Life Educational Trust. Resources include a speaker’s bureau, a library of life-issue resources, and Life Lights scholarships (application deadline for the next round is May 1, 2017).

My thanks to all. Politics is in my wheelhouse, so to speak, but this has been a year to cheer for all the good things going on far from the political arena.

My favorite events: a snowy March for Life, upbeat witness outside PP, the first Pro-Life Women’s Conference

I was out of the country on the January day for New Hampshire’s March for Life, and I was glad to see coverage via NHRTL’s Facebook page – a good resource, by the way.

Sister Mary Rose Reddy at March for Life, DC (photo by Ellen Kolb)

Along with busloads of fellow Granite Staters, I beat the blizzard out of Washington (barely!) just after the national March for Life.

Photo by Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia.com via The March for Life Facebook page

In April, a national pro-life Day of Witness outside Planned Parenthood offices inspired New Hampshire residents to gather in Manchester and Derry.

Witnessing for life in Manchester

Abby Johnson brought together an amazing array of groups under the umbrella of the first Pro-Life Women’s Conference. Thanks to support from readers, I was able to attend and report from the site. I plan to be in Orlando next June for the second edition.

Speaking of Abby Johnson: the year’s most popular Leaven for the Loaf tweet

The Executive Council asserts itself – and produces a new Governor

The Executive Council gave Planned Parenthood our money. I may have mentioned that a few times this year (as in New Hampshire Executive Council reinstates PP $$$).

The so-called swing vote was Chris Sununu, who is now governor-elect, having finished in November barely ahead of fellow councilor Colin Van Ostern. Sununu assured voters shortly before the general election that he opposes public funding of abortion. That doesn’t stop him from supporting public funding for abortion providers. (I just deleted a snarky remark about that. Must be Christmas-season goodwill on my part.)

From June 2016: Executive Councilors and gubernatorial candidates Chris Sununu (with contracts) and Colin VanOstern (at right).

Councilor Joe Kenney, recently re-elected to his post, voted against PP funding but in favor of a much smaller contract with another abortion provider. I’m grateful for the PP vote, and I’m happy that he survived a third electoral challenge from a man who considers abortion to be health care and who has no trouble with public funding of PP.

Councilor Dave Wheeler remains a stalwart pro-life public servant whose votes, statements, and diligent research in 2016 came as no surprise to the voters in district 5. He was re-elected to the Council last month.

No abortion stats or fetal homicide law, despite a Republican legislature

“Republican” and “pro-life” are not synonymous, as the New Hampshire House and Senate proved once again. Even abortion statistics and fetal homicide, measures that would not affect Roe v. Wade or the right to life, did not pass this year.

In possibly-related news, the same House and Senate leaders from the past term are in place for 2017-18.

Questions for 2017

Will the House and Senate see their way to passing stats and fetal homicide bills, which are being introduced once again?

Will Governor-elect Sununu follow through on his pledge to support legislation on (among other things) fetal homicide, buffer zone repeal, conscience rights, and a ban on late-term abortion? Or was his statement of support not a pledge?

Will abortion providers finally enforce the buffer zone law they fought to get? 40 Days for Life is coming back to Concord in the spring. We’ll see if the Equality Center (formerly Feminist Health Center) will do what PP in Manchester didn’t.

(Here’s a pre-buffer-zone-law look at the area around the Equality Center, photographed and described back when the Concord City Council considered a buffer zone petition. A zone would actually push pro-life witnesses into far more visible areas.)

Will  the incoming presidential Administration drive a stake through the heart of the HHS/contraceptive mandate, or will women’s fertility still be considered a disease under whatever might replace the “Affordable” Care Act? Note that the mandate came from an HHS regulation. It could be repealed even if the ACA remains in place. The Hobby Lobby case did not settle the matter.

And speaking of the mandate, will the federal government finally leave the Little Sisters of the Poor alone?

Will the incoming President take pro-life policy seriously, and will the pro-lifers who supported him give him what he deserves if he doesn’t? A related question nags at me: will anyone try to turn the March for Life in DC into a Trump rally? That would be a huge mistake, and I am counting on the March for Life board to guard against such nonsense.

How will coverage of the March for Life compare to coverage of the planned January 21 “women’s march” in DC that will apparently have no place for pro-life women? Ditto for the state level, where the local march for life will be on January 14.

Finally…

Remember the value of your own coverage of events that bear on the life issues. Take photos, write about what you see, and share your posts. Among others, politicians need to see your accounts.

Resolve for 2017 to support New Hampshire’s pro-life pregnancy support agencies. Resolve as well never, ever to let elected officials forget that you’re watching them.

 

A gentle reminder: support your local pregnancy aid center

Permit me to nudge aside some of the end-of-year charitable appeals in your inbox in favor of this: a reminder of some of the great agencies in New Hampshire that specialize in supporting women who are pregnant in challenging circumstances.

You’ll find pregnancy AND parenting support at these agencies, any of which would be very happy to receive your support as a donor or a volunteer.

This link offers contact information for every organization listed here. If you are aware of any updates, please let me know – thank you! Several of these agencies have Facebook pages with frequently-updated information about current needs.

Birthright has offices in Manchester, Derry, and Portsmouth.

CareNet has ten affiliates in New Hampshire.

Pennacook Pregnancy Center is just a block away from Planned Parenthood in Manchester.

New Generation in Greenland provides shelter for homeless pregnant and parenting women. In addition to having volunteer and donation opportunities for supporters, New Generation has its Second Generation Thrift Shoppe to provide an easy way for you to support the ministry.

Our Place, a ministry of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, supports young parents from pregnancy through the first three years of their child’s life.

When you look for local agencies that make a difference in the lives of New Hampshire families, be sure to keep these in mind.

Weekend reading: “The Pro-Choice Case for Pregnancy Centers”

This weekend’s recommended reading is from Ardee Coolidge of Care Net, on the pro-choice case for pro-life pregnancy centers.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of women who choose abortion do so because of financial concerns, employment concerns, or problems with the baby’s father. Frederica Mathewes-Green once famously said of abortion, “[D]o women want abortion? Not like she wants a Porsche or an ice cream cone. Like an animal caught in a trap, trying to gnaw off its own leg, a woman who seeks an abortion is trying to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss.” Indeed, even abortion providers have used her assessment to describe the brutal “necessity” of abortion access for women who have no other apparent choice.

Pregnancy centers provide women with the material support they need to be free to make another choice—one free from the pressures of a desperate situation. At pregnancy centers, women receive job-placement counseling, baby supplies, ultrasounds, and parenting classes. For those who wish to place a child for adoption, they receive resources to assist them with that transition.

Pregnancy centers are not a threat to choice, but are a threat to abortion.

Read the full post. 

9th Circuit upholds California law requiring pregnancy care centers to advertise abortion

Shannon Bream of Fox News has just reported that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy care centers advertise abortion services.

The law that went into effect early this year requires pregnancy care centers to post a notice including this language: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.”

Alliance Defending Freedom represents the plaintiffs challenging the law in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris. ADF’s Matt Bowman said today,

“It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous. In this case, political allies of abortionists are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women. Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. That’s why other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures and why we will be discussing the possibility of appeal with our clients.”

Charles Donovan of the Lozier Institute wrote about the law upon its passage.

“The new law’s text was reportedly written by a pro-abortion pressure group. It singles out pro-life facilities. The intent is clearly to put them out of business. Under penalty of crippling fines of $500 and $1,000 per “offense,” the law would make licensed pro-life medical clinics directly contradict their baby-saving mission, and violate their staffers’ consciences, by advertising for abortion providers.

“…What? you ask? No government body would dare impose such a totalitarian violation of Americans’ individual consciences? No lawmaker would dare coerce a group to do the exact opposite of what its whole purpose is? No politician would dare force private entities to refer clients to their competition? No law could tell selected private groups they must utter government-mandated speech, especially speech they regard as damaging to the person receiving it? And surely no court would uphold such an obviously unconstitutional trampling of individual liberty?

“But unbelievably, all this is exactly what has happened.”

 


Gallery: Care Net Walk for Life in Nashua, 5/7/16